‘Fire’ lacks heat

It was a light crowd on a Sunday afternoon at the Esquire Theatre. The smell of popcorn filled the air, the scene was quiet, except for the creaking sounds of the audience members taking their seats waiting to view the follow-up film to “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”

The U.S. release of “The Girl Who Played with Fire” made its appearance in the Queen City in July. The film is based off Stieg Larsson’s novel of the same name. Lisbeth Salander, the heroine, likes girls, smokes, plays with fire, has piercings and a troubled past. She is strong and does not tolerate men who abuse women. She is a feminist’s daydream.

The story picks up with Lisbeth returning to Sweden after a one-year hiatus. She is accused of triple murder and has to go into hiding. Her journalist “friend” Mikael Blomkvist scrambles around trying to prove her innocence. The subplot — involving prostitution and human trafficking — serves as the glue for the whole story. Through this, we find out secrets that hit very close to home for our heroine.

The story is easy to follow. There is adequate action and suspense, but the secrets discovered weren’t very impressive. A really good crime mystery keeps an audience guessing and this film fell short in that aspect. It didn’t take much effort to figure things out.

The strongest part of the movie is the performances by lead actors Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist. Rapace gives a wonderful performance as the troubled, punk cyber-hacker — Lisbeth. She brings a silent, erotic darkness to a role that could have easily been ruined by Hollywood’s stylized acting.

We sympathize with the lead characters, understand their motivations, and see their humanity.

Nyqvist is grounded, sexy and honest in the role of Mikael Blomkvist. There is a wonderful balance at play here — he’s light and she’s dark. He is stable and she is unstable. The story would have been stronger if the lead characters could have shared the stage more often.

The biggest problem with this movie was that it didn’t bring anything new to the crime/mystery genre. The secrets are no surprise, the villains are poor caricatures of stale stereotypes (think Lurch on steroids) and the one and only enjoyable sex scene seemed unnecessary and it was merely used as sexual filler. What the film did do was introduce me to two very talented actors. I look forward to seeing what their future endeavors have in store for audiences.

Story by Shawn Buckenmeyer