The Swedish-language thriller The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo inevitably simplifies some of the plot knots in Stieg Larsson's 2005 best-seller, a satisfyingly sordid tale of corruption, murder, and family secrets. But there's still enough sexual gruesomeness to justify the alternate title by which international audiences know the film: Men Who Hate Women. Indeed, the girl of the title attracts an outsize portion of that hate, perhaps because she looks so unlike all other women: Professional hacker Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) is pierced, inked, punked out, and as skinny as a street kid.
I don't know why Lisbeth is the magnet for so much male rage. Nor why Larsson and director Niels Arden Oplev linger on the sight of Lisbeth being hideously raped and later punishing her tormentor with even more sadistic acts of violence. At least weather-beaten investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) treats Lisbeth nicely. Together they work to expose the evil in one rich, rotten family. (The Nazi skeletons in their closet reflect a particular interest of the author, who, until his death in 2004 at age 50, crusaded against right-wing extremism in Sweden.)
The film makes excellent use of the cold Scandinavian landscape to emphasize the story's gloomy loneliness. And Rapace and Nyqvist have compelling chemistry. The two stars have shot the next two movies in Larsson's trilogy and I look forward to them with a combination of squeamish fear of what tortures I'll see and queasy excitement about how Lisbeth Salander will handle the next skeevy guy. B