Monday, 14 March 2011

Män som hatar kvinnor (2009) - Niels Arden Oplev

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo my arse, that makes this sound like it's going to be some kind of female action film, in the same vein as Tomb Raider, Resident Evil or even (shudder) Catwoman. No the original Swedish title hits the nail squarely on the head - Män som hatar kvinnor, or for those that can't use Google translate - Men Who Hate Women. Perfect title for a less than perfect (but good nonetheless) film.

A male journalist and a computer hacking tomboy find themselves thrown together to solve the mystery of a girl who went missing thirty years ago. That's the high and low of it. It's your above average murder mystery, the sort of thing Morse or maybe since it's a bit darker than that Cracker would have had a stab at back in the day. I say a bit darker with my tongue firmly lodged in my cheek though since this is pitch black in places, just witness the scene where Lisbeth (that aforementioned tomboy), boots (and I do mean boots) a dildo up the back passage of a rapist, after first tattooing the legend "I am a sadistic pig, a pervert, and a rapist" on his torso. As I said Men Who Hate Women is a perfect title.

So anyway what initially appears to be your usual run of the mill murder mystery quickly becomes something much better than the sum of it's parts. For a start it's set in the wilds of middle Sweden, a perfect landscape in which to set such a harsh tale. Then we have the crusading journo who it turns out is a damn good central character, full of flaws and a pretty normal bloke. The thing that really sets Män som hatar kvinnor apart from all the other run of the mill thrillers most though is Noomi Rapace's career making portrayal of Lisbeth Salander. Lisbeth is a young pierced and tattooed cyber savvy woman, she's brash, rude and exudes hostility. You warm to her as the film progresses and that's down to just how good Rapace is. She also takes the traditional male role in the story, she saves the day and figures out the clue that sets the ball rolling in the right direction.

Okay so that's the good stuff, now for the bad. Well top of my list would be the fact that despite having a huge running time, not once do our duo end up going in the wrong direction. One clue leads to the next and each time they figure something out it's totally correct and they can continue on to solve the next piece of the puzzle, very Dan Brown that. I just expected more from this side of the story. Other than that though it's a well directed (nothing too flash), little film. It's a little disorientating at the start when the viewer is just thrown into the action, but that blows over quickly enough.

It's a shame I've heard such bad things about the other two films in this series, since I now want to watch them even though I get the feeling I won't like them very much. Still I try never to judge a film before I've seen it, unless it's yet another Nicolas Cage actioner. Or a big bucks Hollywood remake of course. Why do they do it? Still, however Fincher's reimagining (or remake or whatever the hell the marketing department comes up with), turns out, it won't be able to take anything away from this. Small mercies and all that.

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