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      The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest Review

      The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest poster

      The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

      Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

      From "King Lear" to "Psycho," some of the greatest popular art in existence has confronted human evil and depravity with an eye as unblinking as Marion Crane's after a visit from Mrs. Bates. By transcending the boundaries of disreputable genres built on bloodlust, our shrewdest artists have made something of such stories beyond mere cruelty.

      Then there's everything else, a little (or a lot) further down the durability scale. I doubt anyone who has read one, two or all three of the late Stieg Larsson's best-sellers, referred to as the Millennium trilogy (or, informally, the "Dragon Tattoo" trilogy), believes they're reading something for the ages. Who cares? It's enough that the borderline-superhuman heroine at the center, bisexual computer wizard and sexual abuse survivor Lisbeth Salander, exacts bittersweet revenge on the men who very nearly destroy her.

      We like that sort of thing. We are a hypocritical species, shaking our heads at the sadism while awaiting, with pumping heart and bated breath, the righteous and usually fatal comeuppance.

      "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" brings to a close the hugely popular trilogy of thrillers written by Swedish journalist and editor Larsson. Those who are all in, as they say, will surely feel compelled to pay the money and see this publishing and cinematic phenomenon through to the end.

      Pity the unsuspecting moviegoer wandering into Larsson's trilogy at the two-thirds point. That moviegoer will be confused. "Hornet's Nest" begins with Salander in the hospital, critically injured, accused of a triple murder. Down at the spacious, industrial-Swedish-funk loft offices of Millennium magazine, meanwhile, her champion and one-time lover, the journalist Blomkvist, is digging down into a massive government conspiracy. Those protected by the shadow government inside the government include a Soviet defector who is Salander's father, whom she torched (literally) long ago. (Hence the title of book and Film 2: "The Girl Who Played With Fire.")

      Larsson's leading characters have less to do in this wrap-up chapter. As Larsson wrote it, and screenwriter and exposition-condenser Ulf Rydberg adapted it, it's a rather wobbly blend of courtroom drama and loose ends tied, albeit rather leisurely. In its depiction of Sweden as a cesspool of fascism and brutally repressive sexism, the "Dragon Tattoo" trilogy is just unformulaic enough to interest fans of the serial-killer and conspiracy genres. Yet it's also just formulaic enough to make individual directors essentially irrelevant. (The recent "Red Riding Trilogy" from England plowed similarly bloody ground, but the films did have discrete and varied personalities.)

      I did like the notes struck at the end between Noomi Rapace, the series' fine, fierce Lisbeth, and Michael Nyqvist as Blomkvist. The book ended differently; the movie has the guts to let things dangle. Both actors have gotten a lot of high-profile international work off this lucrative series. Rapace is in the next "Sherlock Holmes" film opposite Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law; Nyqvist has signed on for "Mission: Impossible IV." Director David Fincher is filming the English-language remake of "Dragon Tattoo." After Fincher made the exemplary, haunting "Zodiac" he told more than one interviewer that he hoped he'd fashioned the last serial killer movie. So much for that fiscally irresponsible statement.

      MPAA rating: R (for strong violence, some sexual material and brief language).

      Running time: 2:28.

      Cast: Noomi Rapace (Lisbeth Salander); Michael Nyqvist (Mikael Blomkvist); Erika Berger (Lena Endre); Annika Hallin (Annika Giannini); Johan Kylen (Jan Bublanski).

      Credits: Directed by Daniel Alfredson; written by Ulf Rydberg, based on the novel by Stieg Larsson; produced by Soren Staermose. A Music Box Films release. In Swedish with English subtitles.

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