Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

A Hornets' Nest that could use more sting

Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest.

2 out of 4 stars



As you and a gazillion other avid readers need hardly be told, it's the final cinematic instalment of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy. But here's what you may not know: It's also proof positive that the law of diminishing returns is alive and avaricious on the Swedish screen. Just chart the decline, from taut and chilling in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, to tepid and confusing in Played with Fire, to windy and repetitive in Kicked the Hornets' Nest. 148 minutes worth of windy, huffing and puffing along less like a vibrant movie than an onerous duty thankfully discharged. Okay, gang, let's check off this plot point, dispatch that bad guy, and then, when all is tediously said and finally done, maybe we can get on to something more exciting - like watch what David Fincher might do with the same stuff in his upcoming remake.

Indeed, if Fincher's take proves better, wouldn't that be a lovely reversal of a tired cliché? Yep, Hollywood gets its Philistine hands on a European flick and - check out the blue moon - actually improves the thing.

Story continues below advertisement


Sorry, this one doesn't really work at all, but don't blame the workers. The principal performers are back and they're as credible as ever, astutely cast with an eye that favours truth over beauty. Of course, first among equals is Michael Nyqvist as the crusading journalist, Larsson's alter-ego in his quest to prove that Sweden's Edenic social democracy is, in fact, rife with serpents. Back too is Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth - the "girl" whose job it is to disturb hornets and play with fire and sport a really gaudy tattoo.

Alas, at least two-thirds of that mission is hard to accomplish when confined to a hospital bed. That's where she spends the bulk of her screen time here, no longer the mercurial avenger of hateful men but simply their professional victim. Oh, occasionally, Lisbeth summons the energy to thumb-type her memoirs on a B-Berry, or, later, to stand trial on a trumped-up murder charge. Yet that's about as kinetic as the poor gal is allowed to get. Our journo fares little better, busy as he is editing the latest issue of his whistle-blowing magazine. In the first movie, these two characters generated some major sexual heat; since then, they've parted ways and the sequels have searched in vain for other temperature-raisers.

Much of the problem can be traced to the villains of the piece: The snakes in the establishment are a bunch of really old white guys. Now this may be true to life, but it's hell on drama. Sure, one of the geriatrics hauls himself off his dialysis machine long enough to get down and dirty, but mainly they just do what old guys everywhere do: yak and palaver and revisit the past (thus, "windy and repetitive"). Sometimes, desperate for action, director Daniel Alfredson cuts away to a more vigorous baddie, the blond behemoth from Part 2, who obliges us with a bloody outburst of violence - gratuitous and often unaccountable, but still welcome.

Equally welcome, and just as gratuitous, is Lisbeth's appearance when the trial begins. Damned if she doesn't revert to her punk look - the Mohawk do, the leather, the chains, the piercings. There, in the prisoner's dock, she sits like the very embodiment of this movie, all dressed up with nowhere to go and nothing much to do.


I suppose that discharging one's duty always matters. So the Swedish trilogy is complete, leaving audiences to go through their own dutiful motions. Excited by the first, disappointed by the second, they can now embrace disappointment again - and wait for Hollywood to gallop to the rescue.

Story continues below advertisement

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets' Nest

  • Directed by Daniel Alfredson
  • Written by Ulf Rydberg
  • Starring Michael Nyqvist and Noomi Rapace
  • Classification: 14A

Report an error Licensing Options
About the Author
Film critic

Rick Groen is a film critic for The Globe and Mail. More

Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.