Lisbeth Salander spends at least half of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest in a hospital bed, barely moving, let alone kicking.
The third and draggiest of the Swedish film adaptations of Stieg Larsson's wee Millennium trilogy, this is the one that ties up the loose ends, finally meting out justice to the band of pervy old secret police and government creeps who have made the punked-out heroine's life so miserable.
Justice is also delivered upon Alexander Zalachenko (Georgi Staykov), who happens to be Lisbeth's father. When last seen, in the wild final face-off of The Girl Who Played With Fire, Lisbeth was taking an ax to his head, while Dad reciprocated by shooting her three times at close range.
Both, improbably, survived.
Directed, like the second installment, by Scandinavian television veteran Daniel Alfredson, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest comes close to self-parody at times - the coffee breaks, the Volvo chases, the sense of decorum (threatening e-mails - how terribly uncivilized!). But for Larsson completists, immersed in the late author's twisting conspiracies and Greek-tragedy scenarios (Lisbeth has a half-brother out to kill her, too), the final chapter has its satisfying turns.
Noomi Rapace returns as Lisbeth. And Lisbeth finally gets out of bed, goes to a Stockholm jail, and awaits trial on murder charges. There's a nice, quiet scene of her doing calisthenics in the shoebox cell, and when the case begins she's allowed to deck herself out in full punk regalia: nose rings, earrings, a towering mohawk, leather, and chains. She's Johnny Rotten crossed with Prince, an androgynous fashion freak. Rapace plays her with a mix of catatonic blankness and nihilist rage.
But mostly The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest belongs to Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), the tall and intrepid magazine journalist who is determined to clear Lisbeth's name, and who goes about doing so - and making espresso and checking his e-mail - with zeal. The fight between Blomkvist and a Serbian hit man in a crowded Stockholm restaurant is not to be believed - an "action" scene staged and shot with a thudding lack of energy and menace. Nyqvist, a lumbering presence, pops his eyes wide with urgency when required to do so - and he seems required to do so every time a cell phone rings.
Lena Endre, as Blomkvist's very pregnant sister, a lawyer who offers to represent Lisbeth at the trial, displays a watchful intelligence that's not always in sync with the dopey, expository script.
So, is there a fourth Larsson book with Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander? Or, as some have hinted, not a fourth but a fifth story, stashed on Larsson's laptop? And so, another movie?
Time will tell. Meanwhile, David Fincher - with Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig as Lisbeth and Blomkvist - gets to tell his (English-language) Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (release date: Dec. 21, 2011).
But Rapace was there first. And even flat on a bed, the side of her head shaved and bandaged, she'll always be Lisbeth for some of us.