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Friday, April 30, 2010

Film Review | The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo


Lurking pigs, hidden dragon

by Thomas Delapa



Nancy Drew she’s not.

To solve the mystery of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the one bluntly obvious clue may be its original title: Men Who Hate Women. In this unpleasant Swedish import, misogyny is so rampant and murderous, it’s a rare man who isn’t branded as a sexist beast.

Clocking in at a porky and pokey 152 minutes, The Girl broke box-office records in Europe last year and won Sweden’s Best Picture award. It also makes Ingmar Bergman’s bleak Scandinavian dramas seem as cheery as Little Miss Sunshine. If this movie reflects the zeitgeist of modern Europe, someone needs a long weekend at Euro Disneyland.

From a posthumous 2005 best-seller by Stieg Larsson, director Niels Arden Oplev inks out a derivative and sensationalized thriller that features not one but two of the most repellent rape scenes in recent memory, doubling your voyeuristic fun. Oplev traces the rambling story of Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), a journalist who’s hired by an elderly tycoon (Sven-Bertil Taube) to investigate the cold case of this beloved niece, Harriet, missing and presumed dead since the 1960s. The film awkwardly opens in medias res, with Mikael being found guilty in a corporate libel case.

In the land of the midnight sun, dark shadows fall everywhere, exposing a stew of unsavory villains that would fill five potboilers. Sinister corporations, venal families, street thugs, ex-Nazis, serial killers and a monstrous parole officer all take their place, threatening either Mikael or the eponymous tattooed girl, Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace) arbitrarily tossed into the mix. A raven-haired goth with a record and an attitude, Lisbeth secretly investigated Mikael for a security firm, and she suspects he was set up. Now she’s gone rogue, hacking into his computer just as he begins his search for Harriet.

Oplev laboriously inches the story along with pace of a pre-climate change North Atlantic iceberg. In parallel but only coincidental plots, he cuts back and forth between Mikael’s investigation and Lizbeth’s repeated victimization at the hands (or hooves) of her sick and twisted parole officer (Peter Andersson). His demand for sexual favors escalates into a full-blown sadistic rape, which the supposedly street-smart Lisbeth seems to walk right into. Our punky heroine’s revenge is just as brutal, hog-tying this pasty-faced pig and forcibly making him, ugh, get in touch with his feminine side.

While Lisbeth is pictured as bad-ass martyr, the filmmakers cheaply Photoshop Antonioni’s Blow-Up into the plot as Mikael enlarges his serpentine search for clues to Harriet’s disappearance. Both leads spend much of their time staring at computer screens; that is, when they’re not staring off into space, contemplating the icy existential void.

However clumsily drawn, the ugliness and perversity pictured in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is nothing that can be described as skin-deep. It cuts all the way down to the bone.

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