IT'S BACK TO SEAMY SWEDEN with The Girl Who Played with Fire. The second film based on Stieg Larsson's best-selling Millennium trilogy sees the return of 90-pound badass Lisbeth Salander (the titular girl with the dragon tattoo from the first book and the 2009 film adaptation), a '90s-era hacker with a panache for piercings and black clothes ('cause that's how she feels on the inside). This installation of the rape-y, murder-y series continues in much the same vein, with an intricate plot dealing with abused young girls in a sex ring.
After a two-year vacation abroad, Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace) returns to Sweden to ensure her sadistic former doctor/guardian is behaving himself. Meanwhile, Lisbeth's comrade, hard-hitting journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), is about to publish a scandalous investigative story about sex trafficking that implicates many high-level Swedish officials. But right before the story goes to press, the story's two lead reporters are killed—and Lisbeth's former doctor is found dead with her prints on the murder weapon. What follows is an extensive foray into Swedish-style Fugitive storytelling—cold, gray, sluggish—as Lisbeth tries to clear her name and Mikael tracks down the Big Bad.
In theory, The Girl Who Played with Fire is a thriller, but it's too listless and filled with plot points to be much of one in practice. It's well shot and acted, but it has a cold detachment as it veers into a violent world of abuse and sadism. The only real reason to keep coming back to this ongoing series (next up: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest) is to marvel at the depth that Rapace gives to Lisbeth—a character who, thankfully, has more to her than just being a spitfire who kicks guys in the 'nads.