Verdict: Unlikely heroine proves compelling in second of Swedish conspiracy trilogy, story less so
Off the back of the late Stieg Larsson's Millennium Trilogy becoming a publishing phenomenon, the movie of the first book, The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo was a word-of-mouth sleeper hit. Especially in New Zealand where it's become one of the biggest foreign language flicks at the local box office.
The first sequel about the further paranoid adventures of Lisbeth Salander and journalist Michael Nyqvist arrives quickly - the third instalment will be here at Christmas - with the series shaping up as the arthouse crowd's own Twilight saga.
And that audience is probably congratulating itself on getting in early with the Swedish originals before the forthcoming American remake.
But if the US remake progresses to this second film, the question might well be: isn't it already Hollywood enough?
For while the first instalment made for a taut conspiracy thriller of Nazi sympathisers, sexual abuse, revenge, cyber-hacking and crusading journalism delivered in an astringent Swedish style, the second part really falls back on too many thriller conventions and implausibilities.
And despite also being originally designed for Swedish television and re-edited for international cinema release, it seems to offer more protracted scenes of violence. Of course, Tattoo wasn't exactly gentle in its depiction of how its unlikely heroine got to be the way she is.
Still, if the new film is prone to excesses and the story more convoluted - this one involving sex trafficking from Eastern Europe, its ties to the Swedish establishment and more - it doesn't lack for energy.
Most of it comes from Noomi Rapace upping the intensity in her portrayal of Salander, bisexual goth computer hacker and emotional powderkeg. She has returned to Sweden to find herself the suspect in two murder cases, one of which she certainly appears to have had a motive for, the other a journalist freelancing for Nyqvist's Millennium magazine.
Still, compelling as she is, she can't quite save the latter stages of The Girl Who Played With Fire. They come with some particularly cartoonish villains and a final violent showdown which way overspends on any suspense - or suspension of disbelief - the film invested earlier.
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Mikael Blomkvist
Director: Daniel Alfredson
Rating: R16 (violence, sexual violence, offensive language & content that may disturb)
Running time: 129 mins