The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, the thrilling finale in author Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, picks up right where The Girl Who Played With Fire left off.  Everyone’s favorite bisexual kickboxing computer hacker and all-around badass Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) lies bloody, beaten and nearly lifeless on a hospital bed and facing charges for the attempted murder of her father should she recuperate.

The ever-present magazine journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyquist) looms on the outside gathering the evidence needed to make Salander a free woman, uncovering a political conspiracy that runs 50 years deep.  As with Fire, Hornet’s Nest was originally released as a TV movie in Sweden and the intended commercial breaks are obnoxiously telegraphed.  Nearly every early scene ends with some cliff-hanging one-liner like “He’s dead meat.”  Fade out.

I mean, where’s Ice-T when you need him, right?

All of the film’s grey-haired Swedish baddies blur together after a while.  Most of them belong to some secret society designed to protect Lisbeth’s father and Sweden’s national security — all explained in scene after scene of long-winded dialogue.  Don’t sweat the details.  They’re not that important — too much exposition without enough plot advancement — and you’ll likely forget them as quickly as I did.

But seriously slow readers might want to wait the DVD release so they can utilize the “pause” button on their remotes or even watch the film with (gasp!) English dubbing to avoid frustration.

Director Daniel Alfredson, returning from Fire, successfully escalates the tension and the film hits its mark once our heroine has recovered enough to enter the courtroom portion of the program.  Rocking a mohawk and a spiky necklace, the stonefaced defendant makes a stand to prove her innocence and sanity.  The snarky punk always remains one step ahead of her accusers and she’s never one to hesitate to remind them a sentence beginning with “Tell me about…” is not actually a question.

The film’s tagline reads “everything will be revealed,” and this explains the way all the details about Lisbeth’s rough childhood come out — or reiterated to their greatest impact.  Meanwhile, we see moments of suspense on Blomkvist’s side as he and his editor/lover (Lena Endre) become targets of a hired assassin. This courtroom scene feels exactly like the climax of an entire trilogy should — with many plot strings coming together — and works as more than enough to satisfy those who have spent more than seven hours watching the Salander saga, while the flashbacks both here and in the film’s gruesome introduction allow newcomers to ride along as well.

We also see the always mesmerizing Rapace at her most compelling in these scenes, but a slasher-esque final showdown between Salander and her freakish half-brother diminishes the brilliance we just witnessed.

Hornet’s Nest never reaches the heights of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, which really works as a standalone feature and remains perhaps the best movie of its kind since David Fincher’s Zodiac (fittingly, a Fincher-directed remake will hit theaters next year).  Thankfully, it soars above the mediocre Fire and succeeds as a fitting end to the story of one of literature and cinema’s most enthralling characters in recent memory.  The ball now sits in the court of Fincher, Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig (the new Salander and Blomkvist) to see if they can add something new to a pretty damn good trilogy with their American adaptation.

7/10

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