'The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's

Bland-looking Scandi crimer benefits from edge-of-your-seat pacing.

Europe’s most famous punk hacker-cum-avenging angel, Lisbeth Salander, is put on trial in “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” based on the closing installment of the spiky “Millennium” trilogy by late writer Stieg Larsson. Originally made for TV and shot back-to-back by Swedish helmer Daniel Alfredson with part two, “The Girl Who Played With Fire,” this bland-looking Scandi crimer benefits from edge-of-your-seat pacing despite a conspicuous lack of action. Euro B.O., though still impressive, has been the weakest of the three films so far, but more moolah awaits on ancillary, especially as part of a “Millennium” box set.

Pic bowed in late November in Scandinavia, and is slowly being rolled out through Europe. In the U.S., the trilogy’s first seg, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” will go out in limited release March 19, while producer Scott Rudin is working on an English-language remake of it for Sony.

Alfredson weaves several short flashbacks to “Fire” into the opening scenes of “Hornet’s Nest” and immediately picks up where he left off, with a bloody Salander (Noomi Rapace) being admitted to a hospital. The police want to question her about the shooting that ended “Fire,” but her kind doctor (Aksel Morisse) keeps away the law enforcers — as well as the pushy psychiatrist (Anders Ahlbom) who treated (or rather, maltreated) her as a child — until she’s recovered from a bullet wound.

Because she’s still a possible suspect in a multiple-murder case and a shootout, Lisbeth is confined to her hospital room. But she’s aided from the outside by Millennium journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), who still believes in her innocence. Blomkvist asks his lawyer sister, Annika (Annika Hallin), to help Salander prepare a defense, though initially, the socially awkward punkette is wary of her help.

Many men at various levels of society — not all of them aware of each other — have an interest in silencing Salander, and the movie cuts to their conspiratorial meetings and actions throughout. These characters are even less developed than they are in the books, but screenwriter Ulf Rydberg and editor Hakan Karlsson (both new to the crew, to the pic’s clear benefit) effectively convey the sense that Salander is being attacked and schemed against from all sides by testosterone-driven monsters with more than a few skeletons in their closets.

All-around excellent work by a host of Swedish character actors is a further boost in moving these villains away from caricature.

After spending much of “Fire” apart, Salander and Blomkvist finally have some scenes together again, and their odd chemistry, such a key element of the first film, comes through strongly again, thanks to Rapace’s and Nyqvist’s performances. Hallin also impresses, and her scenes alongside Rapace during the trial are among the best in the trilogy.

Like the other two segs, the film is almost all talk, with few sequences of real thriller action. (In fact, when these do occur, they feel perfunctory.) The near-constant sense of tension derives more from the way the pic cuts between scenes and cleverly allows the audience to root for the characters by providing hints of what’s to come.

Other tech credits are less uneven than in part two.

Pic’s original Swedish title translates as “The Air Castle That Blew Up,” with “air castle” referring to a pipe dream. The third novel, though already a bestseller in the U.K. under the title “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest,” will be published in the U.S. by Knopf in May.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

Sweden

Production

A Nordisk Film release of a Yellow Bird production, in association with ZDF, SVT, Nordisk Film, with participation of Filmpool Stockholm-Malardalen, Film i Vast, Spiltan. (International sales: Zodiak Entertainment, Paris.) Produced by Soren Staermose. Executive producers, Anni Faurbye Fernandez, Peter Nadermann, Ole Sondberg, Mikael Wallen, Lone Korslund, Gunnar Carlsson. Directed by Daniel Alfredson. Screenplay, Ulf Rydberg, based on the novel by Stieg Larsson.

Crew

Camera (color), Peter Mokrosinski; editor, Hakan Karlsson; music, Jacob Groth; production designers, Maria Haard, Jan-Olof Agren, costume designer, Cilla Rorby; sound (Dolby Digital), Nalle Hansen, Anders Horling; stunt coordinator, Kimmo Rajala; associate producer, Jenny Gilbertsson; assistant director, Kerstin Sundberg; casting, Tusse Lande. Reviewed at Universal screening room, Amsterdam, March 15, 2010. Running time: 146 MIN.

With

Noomi Rapace, Michael Nyqvist, Annika Hallin, Per Oscarsson, Lena Endre, Peter Andersson, Jacob Ericksson, Sofia Ledarp, Johan Kylen, Tanja Lorentzon, Mirja Turestedt, Anders Ahlbom Rosendahl, Magnus Krepper, Michalis Koutsogiannakis, Niklas Hjulstrom, Hans Alfredson, Aksel Morisse.

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