Photo by Corinne Nicholson
The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest (R)
2 1/2 stars out of 4
It's difficult to compare the three film adaptations of the late Stieg Larsson's "Millennium" novels to anything else as few if any foreign language trilogies have ever played theatrically in the U.S. The last set of any note was Krzysztof Kieslowski's "Three Colors" collection from almost 15 years ago.
If you haven't read Larsson's enormously popular books or watched the first two films in the trilogy, seeing "Hornet's Nest" will be an exercise in futility. Unlike the movies based on Thomas Harris' vaguely similar Hannibal Lecter novels, the "Millennium" films don't hold up well as stand-alone productions -- although each has much to offer individually. You'll either have to dive in whole hog or not at all. It should be mentioned the first two installments of the "Millennium" trilogy are now available on DVD.
"Hornet's Nest" picks up where "The Girl Who Played with Fire" left off. Protagonist bisexual Riot-Grrrl Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace) has been shot multiple times -- possibly by her half-brother -- after tossing gasoline on her father and setting him aflame. In the first installment ("The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"), a teen girl was sexually molested by her uncle and cousin before she disappeared into the wind. If this type of stuff is not your cup of tea, you're not alone and should probably steer clear. If it is, the "Millennium" movies will rock you every which way and make Harris' books come off feeling like Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys.
Not quite horror or action, the "Millennium" collection mixes hard-boiled crime with the print media covering it. The bad guys (all men with deep political connections) are depraved sick-puppies and the worst of them are on display here. In addition to Lisbeth's father and brother, there's a pedophile shrink and a kind of Skull 'n' Bones group of old school codgers who know no limit when it comes to protecting their anonymity and what they perceive as their God-given birthright to plunder.
When Lisbeth is charged with her father's assault, reporter Mikael (Michael Nyqvist) calls on his lawyer sister Annika (Annika Hallin) to represent her. Armed with more than enough hard evidence to clear Lisbeth (also Mikael's former lover) of the charge, the siblings and their associates start having second thoughts when those way further up on the power food chain start tightening the screws.
By sticking as close as possible to every single letter of the source text, returning "Played with Fire" director Daniel Alfredson and screenwriter Jonas Frykberg push the limits of the audiences' patience. Clocking in at a backside-numbing 148 minutes, "Hornet's Nest" is overlong by at least a half hour and is rife with informational redundancy.
Regulated to a hospital bed most of the time, the largely non-verbal Lisbeth is too often shown slowly recovering from her wounds and delaying incarceration. The considerable chemistry between her and Mikael has been eliminated as they share only two fleeting scenes. Two of the more interesting villains are given early exits and Lisbeth's lurking computer hacker associate Plague (Tomas Kohler) is woefully underused.
As much as the film will likely appeal to established fans of the books, it essentially ignores the cardinal rule of adaptations: Make it clear and concise and assume the audience knows nothing of the story going in.
If you're the sort who can't (justifiably) handle subtitles and prefer more action than drama, there's good news. "Dragon Tattoo" is being remade in English with current James Bond title character Daniel Craig as Mikael and impressive newcomer Rooney Mara playing Lisbeth.
Due next year, it is being directed by David Fincher ("Fight Club," "Se7en," "The Social Network"), a guy who is eminently suited for this sort of grungy material.
Presented in Swedish with English subtitles. (Music Box Films)