The Girl Who Played with Fire 

istian Thulin) a young, freelance journalist who has been researching sex trafficking with his girlfriend, a graduate student.

What the pair uncovers reaches deep into the Swedish political establishment to parties who would prefer their penchants for underage sex slaves not be made public, and to a handful with both the means and mind-set to do "something" to keep the story from going public. Salander, of course, gets wrapped up in the troubles.

The ongoing thread plays out like a TV crime caper, with Salander and Blomkvist running parallel investigations of the underworld, while the cops mostly bumble and ignore advice. The journalist gets to deal with the police, politicians, protection of his sources and worrying for the safety of Salander, whose main concern is vengeance.

"The Girl Who Played with Fire" isn't as grimly unhinged as its predecessor, and Salander's chaos becomes much more methodical as her backstory is explored.

Director Daniel Alfredson, who also directed the forthcoming third film, "The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest," has a cleaner vision of the epic than Niels Arden Oplev, who directed "Dragon Tattoo," but it's not entirely clear whether the tidiness will ultimately prove appropriate. Based on the late Stieg Larsson's beloved "Millennium Trilogy" novels, Alfredson's take could prove either a moment of clarity surrounding the central character, or the first hint of a too-sterile bookend to a fantastically flawed, immensely likable character.

Larsson's books are a hit entirely because of Salander, a character expertly carried by Rapace. She's troubled, but her mania comes from trauma that's unfortunately familiar to many around the world. Rapace perfectly embodies this hurt, and delivers it with stylish, calculating mania.

The Salander character is searching for an end to her suffering, which we know will never cease, no matter how high the bodies stack. "?Joe Wertz

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