Today: April 17, 2024

Girl Who Played With Fire, The

Hot on the heels of
flat-packed thriller
The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, every Guardian reader’s favourite kickboxing,
lesbian Goth avenger/sociopath is back in the second of Swedish author Steig
Larsson’s
Millennium trilogy, The
Girl Who Played With Fire.

Newly wealthy, lesbian Goth computer
hacker/feminist avenging angel

Lisbeth Salander (the titular girl) is sunning herself in the Caribbean and
living off the fortune she defrauded at the end of the first film when she learns her abusive, court-appointed guardian, corrupt
lawyer Bjurmann (Andersson) is planning to have laser surgery to remove
the “I am a rapist”
tattoo she gave him (after beating and sodomising him) in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.
Full of righteous fury, she flies back to Sweden, breaks into his flat
and threatens to kill him if he does. As you do. Meanwhile crusading
investigative journalist (and
the only man ever to, briefly, turn Lisbeth!) Mikael Blomkvist (Nyquist) and his
colleagues at Millennium magazine
are about to expose an
international sex trafficking
ring with links to the highest echelons of Swedish society. When three people
connected to the story are murdered
and Salander is framed for the
crime forcing her to become a fugitive, Blomkvist smells a rat and launches his own investigation to clear her
name. But the damaged Salander
has her own ideas about
justice…

Like a crime thriller
written by Andrea Dworkin (all
men are rapists, all women are kickboxing lesbian avengers, blah, blah, blah,
yawn) and then rewritten by Eli Roth (Gratuitous lesbian sex scene! Naked sex slaves tied to beds! Hatchets
and gore!), The Girl Who Played With Fire is a humourless,
flat-packed,
pot-boiler that will
no doubt
delight and divide fans of Larsson’s books
while leaving the rest of us
wondering just what all the fuss is about. Lurid and convoluted without
being intricate or
intelligent, the film tries to
have its cake and eat it, at once condemning misogyny whilst revelling
in the film’s more graphically salacious interludes (explicit depictions
of sexual abuse and a pointless, overlong, soft-focus, lesbian sex
scene. Though most films could be improved by the addition of a
pointless, soft-focus, lesbian sex scene).

While it’s as clinically
efficient as its predecessor, The
Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, the
film suffers from not being a stand-alone piece; it’s a bridge between
the first and third instalments and a knowledge of the first part is
essential. The plot is by-the-numbers storytelling with bad
guys right out of a Bond movie; The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo gave us tag-team father and son Nazi serial killers, The Girl Who
Played With Fire
gives us a sex
trafficking ring made up of a quasi-Aryan biker gang, an indestructible German hulk who doesn’t feel pain and a scarred Russian mastermind.

The plot is entirely predictable right down to its “Luke,
I am your father,” twist and as with
most modern detective thrillers the heroes do precious little detecting,
relying on their phones and the Internet to track down the bad guys (“Quick
Watson, to the app store,” as the Beeb’s recent Sherlock would probably say).
Noomi Rapace is again excellent as the damaged Salander and while she’s as
tough, creepy and vulnerable as she was in the first film, her character, in no
way, develops; she’s a little shoe-gazing ball of fury at the start and she’s a
little shoe-gazing ball of fury at the end (albeit one who’s losing blood). If
anything she develops near superhuman powers, surviving being beaten, shot and buried
alive without losing the parting in her severe Goth hairstyle and tracking down
the baddies with the aid of her super-duper photographic memory.

One of the biggest drawbacks
of the film however is that the central characters, Blomkvist and Salander
never really share any screen-time.
By necessity the plot keeps them apart, Salander is on the run after all
and Blomkvist is working to clear her name, but much of the original film’s
charm was the developing relationship between the two and Salander’s slow
humanisation. Instead, the film keeps her alone and virtually mute; a Goth
stereotype. Without that spark of a human relationship The Girl Who Played
With Fire is really just
The Girl
Who Likes To String Up Whoremongers.

Marcia Degia - Publisher

Marcia Degia, who has worked in the media industry for more than 20 years, is the Publishing Editor of KOL Social Magazine. See website: thekolsocial.com

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