The combat sequences are amateurishly choreographed, as is most of the cinematography, with the exception of a few sequences. One such notable is a brief but exciting car chase, which sees Paolo try and rescue Lisbeth's abducted friend, Miriam, who is set to be brutally interrogated to reveal her whereabouts. When he eventually tries to overcome the indestructible blond henchman, both he and Miriam are left beaten and unconscious inside an isolated barn, which is then set alight with them still trapped inside. The camera lingers on the burning barn, with the flames licking at the gasoline, marveling at this spectacle. In the background, to the ignorance of the henchman, the pair escape. This is one of the most exciting sequences in the film but it really felt staged and unpolished, which disappointingly, is a feature obvious throughout the film.
The plot all but rejects the events in the first film, with the exception of the Bjurman rape, and offers a fresh angle for the characters and avoids retreading similar content. The plot of The Girl Who Played with Fire delves into Lisbeth's past and most notably the attempted murder of her step-father with lit gasoline that resulted in her commitment to a psych ward. He had survived but albeit forever crippled and scarred from the burns. It is revealed that he assumes the identity of Zala, a fact that Blomqvist discovers quite late in the film, and while it is supposed to be a major revelation it doesn't successfully resonate as one. Zala is the leader of the trafficking racket, and responsible for ordering the trio of murders. Lisbeth locates his residence and escapes alone to confront him herself. Blomqvist, trying to convince the police and media that Lisbeth is innocent is always a few steps behind and tracks her to her step-father's house and presses to save her.
Zala's henchman conveniently suffers from congenital analgesia, or an inability to feel pain. Throughout the film, his indestructibility is placed under serious doubt and I found this reasoning to be ridiculously convenient. There is much discussion and deliberation assigned to questioning who this guy really is, and it feels like wasted time. The violence is brutal and bloody and the early sex scenes are actually quite explicit, but further revealed Lisbeth's homosexual urges. I was disappointed by Blomqvist's involvement here, as he obviously cares for Lisbeth but wound up sleeping with his colleague from the magazine for most of the film. Lisbeth has most of the screen time, which I felt she was owed from the first film, as she desperately tries to evade discovery and manhandle her pursuers. Having not read the novel, I'm not sure how engaging it is to read, but I felt the script was a genuine mess and I was often bored.
Lisbeth is a great character and Noomy Rapace gives a solid performance, as does Michael Nyqvist as Blomqvist, but it was poorly timed and directed (this time by Daniel Alfredson) and technically it was unpolished and lacked ambition or imagination. I thought it also lacked the atmosphere of the first film that was capable of generating the suspense that many of the scenes warranted. Overall, I found this to be quite an average addition to this trilogy. I was never really engaged or immersed in the plot. While The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo adopted the classic style of the cosy school whodunit, I felt this was left wallowing in the commonly examined story of human trafficking without ever seeking to add an original style or an agenda beyond faithfully adapting the novel to the screen. I guess the overall strength of the trilogy, if you are to consider the films in their entirety, will be determined by the final chapter, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest, set for release in 2011.
My Rating: 2 1/2 Stars