"Bloated, Wasted, NC-17 Effort Full of Brutality and Revenge"
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is an English language version of the first of three novels by the late activist journalist Stieg Larsson of Sweden. It’s been touted as a supercharged thriller, but, unlike the Swedish movie version, it fails to deliver the goods and contains just as much, if not more, lewd, obscene, and extremely brutal content that extols revenge. This movie should have been rated NC-17, not R.
An elderly man named Henrik Vanger from a rich family with numerous business interests hires Mikael, a journalist falsely sentenced for libel, to investigate the disappearance 40 years ago of Henrik’s beloved niece, Harriet. Harriet used to do framed nature displays for Henrik on his birthday, and he’s been getting them from her killer every year since she disappeared.
Henrik tells Mikael that the Vanger clan is full of terrible people. He believes a powerful family member may have killed Harriet, perhaps one of his two brothers who had links to the Nazi Party. Only one of Henrik’s two brothers and the dead brother’s son, Harriet’s own brother Martin, are still living, however.
Henrik has a guesthouse on the island where the family’s large estate is located. Mikael moves into the guesthouse to conduct his investigation. With help from his Christian daughter, Mikael learns a cryptic set of phone numbers next to some initials are really references to the Book of Leviticus. He also figures out that one of the initials is linked to the unsolved brutal murder of a woman in 1949.
When Henrik suffers a small stroke, Mikael gets help from a troubled, tattooed, pierced computer hacker named Lisbeth, who has troubles of her own with her new parole officer or social worker, a sadomasochistic bureaucrat who takes control of all her bank accounts. He starts to extort crude sexual favors from Lisbeth in exchange for money. Lisbeth played a role in checking out Mikael for Henrik and has secretly hacked onto Mikael’s computer so she can follow his movements.
After getting revenge and turning the tables on the evil bureaucrat, who rapes her in one brutal scene, Lisbeth joins Mikael in his investigation. He asks her to see if the other initials in Harriet’s Bible are also female murder victims. As they follow the trail, viewers learn more secrets about the Vanger family, Lisbeth, and Harriet, the missing Vanger girl.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO fails to connect. The wild rock song featured in the trailer only shows up during the credits, so viewers expecting anything really exciting will be sorely disappointed. Instead, viewers will be offended by the brutal sexual violence depicted in the movie, and some will find offense with the murky, mixed, and potentially misleading use of Bible verses from the Book of Leviticus. Also, Daniel Craig as Mikael is too cold and distant, and Rooney Mara as Lisbeth doesn’t have the same electric energy that Noomi Rapace brought to the Swedish film version. Moreover, it seems to take longer to bring the two main characters together, and longer to tell their individual stories. Finally, the way that the movie is edited makes parts of the story seem confusing and overlong at times.
Like the Swedish movie, there are three disturbing, brutal, offensive scenes involving the sadomasochistic social worker. One of these scenes extols exacting cruel revenge on those who have abused you. At one of the screenings we attended, people were cheering as Lisbeth takes brutal revenge on the evil bureaucrat who raped her. Furthermore, although Lisbeth sleeps with a woman in one scene, she begins a torrid, explicit affair with Mikael. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO also contains some strong foul language, a murky and potentially misleading use of Bible verses, and depictions of extreme violence, including a graphic, disturbing rape scene and a disturbing humiliation scene. Thus, while the serial killer is exposed and defeated, and the old client finds out what happened to his beloved niece, the movie’s graphic content and explicit nudity are way over the top. Also, most of the really offensive content has nothing whatever to do with the mystery of the missing niece and the serial killer plot, though some of it comes into play again in the second novel about the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.
That said, this movie is clearly not recommended for any moviegoer. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO should be rated NC-17, not R, so shame and scorn on the MPAA, which determines these bogus ratings. Even better, of course, the movie should not have been made at all.
(PaPaPa, H, B, C, Ab, AC, HoHo, FeFe, LL, VVV, SSS, NN, A, D, MMM) Very strong pagan, slightly mixed worldview with some humanist, moral, biblical, and Christian elements about a 40-year-old missing persons case where the missing person is said to have become a religious Christian before she disappeared and leaves behind biblical clues about what may have happened to her but also Anti-Semitic killer seems to be using some Bible verses from Leviticus to brutally murder Jewish women according to various punishments in Scripture, male protagonist’s Christian daughter prays silently during a meal with him and then leaves him an important clue featuring the religious aspects of the murder case he’s investigating, title character and male protagonist hunt down a serial killer, uncle and niece share strong family bond, light Anti-Nazi content exposing at least one Anti-Semitic serial killer, plus strong homosexual element where female lead appears to be bi-sexual and is shown kissing and touching a woman in a bar and waking up next to her in the morning and strong feminist subtext of “empowering” women who would like to get revenge on their male abusers; 10 obscenities (mostly “f” words) and three strong profanities referring to Jesus or Christ; extreme violence includes forced sexual favors, forced sadomasochistic rape and sodomy, nasty villain tasered, beaten, sodomized, and humiliated with the message “I am a racist pig” tattooed on his chest, old crime photos of serial killer’s victims with bloody wounds, another villain tries to suffocate bound man with plastic bag and threatens him with knife, people find cat that’s been brutally killed and disemboweled, man wounded in forehead by flying wood chip from a bullet and woman sews it up, villain hit in face with blunt object, car and motorcycle chase followed by car exploding in flames with man inside, and teenage girl knocks man with oar, and he tumbles into water and, soon thereafter (but not seen), drowns; extreme sexual content includes brutal sexual violence, forced sadomasochistic sodomy, rape, forced oral sex, rapist beaten and sodomized, depicted sex scenes between unmarried couple, implied sex between unmarried couple, male protagonist is having an affair with a married woman then beds a single woman, two verbal references to oral sex, and bi-sexual woman kisses woman in bar and wakes up next to her the following morning; two slightly obscured lower frontal female nudity, shots of rear and upper female nudity, shots of rear male nudity, and upper male nudity; alcohol use; smoking; and, lying, stealing, tattoos, body piercings, woman humiliates and blackmails her vicious rapist and sexual extortionist, man is proud of his past Nazi Party photos, journalist is framed by villainous company affiliated with organized crime, and female protagonist hacks into people’s computers without their knowledge.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is based on the first of three novels by a Swedish journalist. The English language movie follows Mikael, a reporter who’s hired by a rich elderly man to find the man’s beloved Christian niece. The niece disappeared 40 years ago. The rich man suspects one of his rapacious relatives. Mikael gets help from a troubled, tattooed computer hacker named Lisbeth, who has troubles of her own with a sadomasochistic social worker who rapes her. They discover the niece has left behind some cryptic notes in her Bible, which point to a series of unsolved brutal murders by a serial killer traveling the countryside.
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO is not as riveting as the recent Swedish movie based on the popular novel. Also, like that movie, there are three extremely disturbing scenes involving the sadomasochistic bureaucrat. Furthermore, although Lisbeth sleeps with a woman, she begins a torrid affair with Mikael. The niece is found and the serial killer stopped, but THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO contains strong foul language and depictions of extreme sexual violence and revenge that moviegoers will avoid at all costs.