Daniel Alfredson's film adapts the second book in Stieg Larsson's trilogy, and it's very much in the middle: It begins, without introductions, with the same characters (and actors) as the first film, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, and wraps up, as the book does, with a question mark to be resolved in Part 3. Thus, this thriller, set in and around Stockholm, isn't as novel or self-contained as Dragon, and even viewers who have read the book may find this installment less satisfying.
Its titular anti-heroine, Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace), isn't as strange and fearsome anymore, and she has no face-to-face interaction with crusading journalist (and her one-time lover) Mikael (Michael Nyqvist). Yet, the two wind up trying to solve the same crime, a brutal double-homicide that Lisbeth has been accused of. Uncovered in the process is more of Sweden's seamy underside (here, sex trafficking from the nearby former Soviet states), as well as the horrors of Lisbeth's past.
But much of the book's detail and its secondary plots have been left on the cutting-room floor, and what remains is a fairly rote investigative procedural. Gone too is the moody vibe and handsome cinematography of the first film. Fans of the trilogy will want to catch up -- and the performances of Rapace and Nyqvist are both strong -- but this outing doesn't nearly live up to its incendiary title. In Swedish, with subtitles. Starts Fri., July 30. Manor