The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

Daniel Alfredson’s The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest shares many of the same flaws as the Millenium trilogy’s previous installment and then some, leading to a dull thud of a conclusion.  The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest has little else on its mind except tying up loose ends and concluding a long gestating conspiracy story being spearheaded by some of the most inept shadowy government agents I have ever seen.  Whatever suspense or danger that might have pervaded previous installments is completely lacking here as Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) recovers from her injuries from the end of the first film and is on trial for her attempted murder of her father.

The plot mechanics of the film befuddle me but much of that is most likely a lacking in understand of the Swedish judicial system.  In either case, the story is dull and lacks any kind of suspense whatsoever.  In fact, taking this film and the previous one put together, one could say this would be the trial portion of a Swedish “Law and Order” remake.  After the events of the second film, Salander is recuperating while also being held under guard, charged for the attempted murder of her father who, for some reason or another (again, going to have to ask the Swedes on this one), is recuperating at the same hospital.  Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) takes it upon himself to use his magazine to publicly defend Salander and reveal all the dirty, corrupt practices of shady old white men who have kept her imprisoned and incapacitated for her entire adult life.

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The Girl Who Played With Fire

The Girl Who Played With Fire

The Girl Who Played With Fire, the second installment in Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy, ditches Niels Arden Oplev, the director of the first installment in the Swedish series, for Daniel Alfredson and while the story is a marked improvement over the drab procedural of the original, Alfredson also trades in some cinematic import for a more TV movie feel.  While the story takes up more personal stakes and allows the viewer to enter the head space of Lisbeth Salander, the film’s central heroine, there’s also a lot more needless fat to the story and the kind of sheen that’s more evident on network television.  All of the gritty details are left to the story while the film takes a cleaner shine that betrays its gritty details.

A year has passed since the events of the first film and Lisbeth has been living abroad while Mikael Blomkvist is working with a new reporter at his Millenium Magazine hoping to expose a sex trafficking ring.  When Lisbeth returns to Stockholm and the young reporter and his girlfriend end up dead, with Lisbeth’s fingerprints on the gun, our two estranged heroes delve into the seedy underground each, separately, trying to prove the young hacker’s innocence.  As opposed to the first film which introduced her, this film reveals much of the background and history of its central character and she thusly feels more of an essential character.  In the first film, it felt like Lisbeth was little more than a sidekick character to Blomkvist within her own franchise but she takes center stage here revealing interesting details about her past and informing and playing off of events that felt like perfunctory appendages in the first film.

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L.A. Confidential

LA Confidential

Curtis Hanson’s seminal crime epic L.A. Confidential is a master class in telling a story economically and entertainingly as well.  Hanson and Brian Helgeland’s adaptation turns James Ellroy’s monster of a novel into a clean, well told story that never feels like its leaving anything out to better fit an under three-hour picture.  In effect, there is not a wasted frame or line of dialogue throughout the film as each piece fits together seamlessly building to a thrilling gun battle at a rundown motel.

Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, and Guy Pearce lead an all-star cast as three very different detectives drawn into a web of conspiracy and murder when one of their own is killed in a sleazy diner.  Prostitution, drugs, and corruption are the name of the game in the seedy world of 1950’s Los Angeles.   To get into the story would take up far too much time but needless to say, like all the great noirs, the story takes numerous twists and turns and a lesser filmmaker would have made a confusing mess of it.  But Hanson handles the material deftly, guiding the viewer and its main protagonists through a labyrinthine story that can be hard to process on the page but crackles off the screen.

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