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The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

Final installment of Stig Larsson's crime saga doesn't dazzle, but is plenty satisfying

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The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

Directed by Daniel Alfredson

Opens Oct. 29 at the Charles Theatre

Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) certainly knows how to enter a courtroom. The brusque young woman with the dragon tattoo on her back, Mount Ahkka-sized chip on her shoulder, and a warranted distrust for men in power spent the first two movie installments of Stig Larsson's Millennium trilogy favoring black jeans, jet black hair, a black leather jacket, and a granite-faced scoff. She saves her best punk throwback getup for The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, though, and for her appearance before a Stockholm court. She's charged with attempted murder, and Dr. Peter Teleborian (Anders Ahlbom), the shrink who committed the 12-year-old Lisbeth after she set her father on fire, still feels she's mentally incompetent and should be institutionalized. Lisbeth, who refused to answer questions during preliminary interviews with a prosecutor and Telebron's examinations, shows up to court pugnaciously alert. And she's dressed like she's ready for battle.

That moment doesn't come until about 1 hour and 45 minutes into an ample 148 minutes, which represents the good and bad of this final chapter of the crime trilogy. Hornet's, directed by Daniel Alfredson and co-written by Jonas Frykberg and--the same pair behind the The Girl Who Played With Fire--is by far the series most sedate, sprawling, and subtle installment. It takes its time to unwind its plot and doesn't reach the same level of conventional thriller tensions as the first, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. It does, however, wrap up loose ends, to varying degrees of satisfaction. If it feels a little underwhelming by the final shot, that's only because Lisbeth Salander, goth-punk hacker qua one-woman eye-for-an-eye justice machine, is way too entertaining to leave in peace. If you've enjoyed these movies at all thus far, you kinda want to know what happens to her next. It's like the end of Le Pacte des Loups: Can't the movie just keep going and follow Grégoire and Marianne wherever they're heading?

Hornet's picks up right where Fire left off: with Lisbeth with a bullet in her brain and crusading investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) trying to figure out who was the hand behind the trigger. And, yes, it's a testament to this series' outrageousness that its decent man of action is an investigative journalist. Blomkvist also happens to be a bit of a self-righteous twat, but he means well--and he's much better than the male monsters who seem to occupy posts of power in these movies' worldview.

Plus, Blomkvist is pretty good at uncovering facts, such as who this Russian Zalechenko (Georgi Staykov) is, what his relationship to Lisbeth is, and why this former Soviet Union operative has been able to hang out in Sweden in relative luxury for the past three decades. This "why" may have something to do with a a secretive governmental cabal of rich old Swedish captains of industry that, perhaps, had something to do with Lisbeth's institutionalization after she became a fire-starting 12-year-old.

That's right: Hornet's is where the Millennium trilogy dives headlong into conspiracy theories, covert governmental agencies, a septugenarian hit man taking one for the secret team and agreeing to walk into a hospital and to put some caps in some ass, planting cocaine and cash in Blomkvist's flat to try and discredit him, e-mailed threats to Blomkvist's co-editor, a pair of Serbian brothers who don't mind shooting up a rather swank Stockholm restaurant, an underground hacker named Plague discovering a stockpile of kiddie porn on a doctor's laptop, and the Swedish Constitutional Police, with its fabulously no-nonsense agent Monica Figuerola (Mrja Turestedt).

While these shadowy machinations are going on, Blomkvist's sister Annika (Annika Hallin) is trying to defend Lisbeth--which means Hornet's two-hours-and-change running time is pretty much all courtroom drama and political plotting. It doesn't always make for the most gripping action, but if you've already invested your time in the first two movies, you want to know how it all plays out.

And that may be the Millenium trilogy's biggest moviegoing coup. Tattoo opened in Baltimore in late March; a mere five months later the final installment hits screens, and there's something very satisfying about completing a movie trilogy inside a calendar year. None of that waiting a year--or more--between installments. None of that marketing push announcing that makes a movie feel overexposed before it opens. Merely a patient platform release schedule that brings each successive movie to screens while the last installment is still pretty fresh in the memory. Now that their storyline has played out, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest deliver a solidly conventional crime saga. The Sweden setting might be a bit exotic for American audiences, but they're fairly typical genre fare. Getting to plow through them in a comparable time period that it might take to read the novels, though, has delivered genre lovers some popcorn fun.

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