Movies: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest * * *
(16, General release)
As David Fincher prepares to begin shooting an American version of Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy, the Swedish trio of film adaptations of the acclaimed crime novels comes to a close with this densely plotted thriller.
The first film in the series, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, was lavished with praise in certain quarters. But while grittily entertaining it was cinematically far from remarkable, and looked a bit like a below-par episode of Inspector Morse.
Things got much worse with the second film, The Girl Who Played with Fire, which was a bit of a skittish mess. And in this one the travails of Lisbeth Salander finally come to a head when she faces her various persecutors in court.
Ms Salander (perfectly played by Noomi Rapace) is a renegade computer hacker whose horrific early experiences have left her with an enduring mistrust of the world. After attacking her violent father, she was committed to a mental institution at the age of 12 and systematically abused by her psychiatrist. She was then declared a ward of state, after which an odious legal guardian continued her sexual abuse.
In the first two films, Lisbeth found a champion in the homely form of campaigning journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), who helped her trace her sinister father Zalachenko. At the end of the second, Lisbeth shot and wounded Zalachenko after being seriously injured herself. And in this last instalment, a sinister group of powerful insiders decide that Lisbeth must be silenced for good.
The main strength of the first film was the extraordinary onscreen chemistry of Nyqvist and Rapace, but here, as in the second film, they rarely share the screen at all. A labyrinthine plot verges at times on the risible. Probably the most entertaining part of the film is the trial that forms its climax, but we spend an awful lot of time getting there, and at almost two-and-a-half hours The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest is a bit of a trudge.
As with the previous film, it boasts a nasty undercurrent of extreme violence, and then there's the problem of Ronald Niedermann (Micke Spreitz), a blond giant who kills for practice and is impervious to pain. He seems like something that's escaped from the pages of an Ian Fleming novel and undermines the film's pretensions towards gritty reality.