Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The "girl" is back: Stieg Larsson's Dragon Tattoo follow-up PLAYS WITH FIRE

You want more of Lisbeth Salander? Judging by the USA box-office take from the first film in this continuing series -- approaching $12 million, making it by far the most successful foreign-language film of the year -- you do. So head out to your art multiplex this Friday and settle in for another relatively wild ride as Lisbeth tackles... relatives and other problematic people.

THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE, number two in the trilogy that is now rumored to be a quartet, has a different director from that of its predecessor, and the difference, while immediately apparent, is not necessarily for the worse.  Director Daniel Alfredson (pictured at left), the new boy on the block, has worked more in Swedish televi-
sion, and this shows. "Fire" looks, sounds (except for the foreign language, of course) and feels like something that you might stumble upon while surfing cable television and -- if that stumble occurred at the show's beginning -- that you would watch, entran-
ced by its bizarre plot and fine acting, right through to the end.
(The screenplay this time is by Swedish TV writer Jonas Frykberg.)

In fact, I enjoyed "Fire" a bit more than "Tattoo," if only because it is finally less florid (don't worry: it's florid enough, but no serial killers or Neo-Nazis in the closet) and more legitimately down-and-dirty.  It remains, as is Tattoo,  mystery-moviemaking-by-the-numbers -- as practically every mainstream hit of this sort must be. There are plenty of coincidences and last-minute "saves."  Fire is shorter, too: only 129 minutes to Tattoo's 152.

That said, there's not a whole lot more than needs detailing without spoiling things.  We continue to learn of Lisbeth's history from this film, and it's as grim as you'd imagine.  (You don't grow up to be a character like this without a closet full of ugly skeletons.)  Noomi Rapace (above) once again plays Lisbeth, and she's even more pivotal to this film's success because co-star Michael Nyqvist (below) is less seen, and so their relationship appears to be on hold.  Lena Endre (whom I mis-labeled in my post on the earlier film), Yasmine Garbi  and Peter Andersson (as the indelibly nasty Nils Bjurman) are on hand for an encore, now joined by Scandinavian stalwart Per Oscarsson -- who, via his thoughtful, quiet appearances, rolls out a ton of exposition. The most memorable cast member, though, may be the beefy, burly blond shown at bottom, played by Micke Spreitz, whose identity and character gimmick both prove interesting.

Whatever critics say, fans are likely to turn out in droves, though they may be somewhat disappointed at this less-glossy follow-up: shorter, grittier, and with an aspect ratio of only 1.85: 1, as opposed to Dragon's widescreen 2.35: 1.  But since it's Lisbeth they love, they'll hang on -- and probably beg for more. (Which they'll get: The third part of the trilogy is on tap for this coming October.)

The Girl Who Played With Fire, from Music Box Films, opens Friday, July 9, beginning one of the largest "limited" runs of a foreign-language film all year.  By the end of August it will appear in more than 100 theaters in over 50 towns and cities.  Click here (and then click on IN THEATERS) to learn if, when and where the film will be playing near you.

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