“The Girl Who played With Fire”
 
Sequels are always more difficult than originals.  What begins as a fresh idea becomes, in the re-warming, a kind of cinematic leftover.  It just doesn’t tantalize the taste buds any more.
            Noomi Rapace, playing Lisbeth Salandar, practically burned a hole in the screen in “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”  She was edgy, dangerous, sexy, brilliant, and, despite her small stature, an adversary you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley.  Now, having somehow latched on to a small fortune, she’s just another anonymous expatriate with a Cayman Islands bank account, staring at the ocean and smoking cigarettes.  Eventually, bored silly, she makes her way back to Denmark , where her old ally, Mikael (Michael Nyqvist) now works for a news magazine.  She looks up an old lover, and after one desultory liaison, gives her the apartment for a while, so Lisbeth can continue to be incognito, but after one ill-advised foray to re-threaten an old nemesis, she manages to get falsely accused of murder, and now the police are after her.  So somehow she has to clear her name while on the run.  (Shades of the old American plot of “The Fugitive”).
            Rehashing the back story of how Lisbeth, as a teenager, set fire to her Dad, who was abusing her Mom, we also re-visit her sobering background in institutions for the criminally insane, and her subsequent degradation by her parole officer, on whom she exacted a literal revenge.  But now, instead of rooting for her to survive her horrific ordeal with at least a modicum of sanity intact, we’re just watching her indulge in old-fashioned vigilante justice, which still makes her edgy, but hardly endearing.  Mikael, meanwhile, seems to be attracting the attention of a perfectly nice woman a lot closer to his age, but remains obsessed, still, with the haunting, brooding presence of the enigmatic Lisbeth.
            Throw in an old Russian KGB angle, a stakeout and shootout in a barn, and a little bit of instant computer expertise, and you have a film that’s no longer so out of the ordinary.  Yes, we’re still set up for Part Three, but we like our heroines to look, well, not so much like they’re strung out on heroin.  And our leading man could maybe be…something other than a middle-aged, slightly frumpy, ordinary-looking magazine writer.  And 130 minutes starts feeling pretentious when there’s so much footage of standard sedans driving normal speeds on regular roads.  Sure, there’s still a lot of Danish Gothic here, but without the cloaked-in-mystery, sharply-honed drama, the viewer may well tire of the pervading self-important humorlessness of it all.
 
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas