The final installment in the Swedish trilogy based on Stieg Larsson’s Millennium books isn’t really much more than a courtroom showdown between punk heroine Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), assisted by her journalist pal Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) and his sister Annika (Annika Hallin), the lawyer who represents her, against the conspirators who had protected her dastardly father (Georgi Staykov), the Soviet defector who was involved in all sorts of unsavory activities. And as befits the close of a narrative dedicated to delivering a feminist message in a thriller format, “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” concludes with Lisbeth’s triumph over all the nefarious men who have schemed to control and abuse her for so many years—not just her nasty daddy but the sleazy officials who assisted him, most notably the snarling psychologist (Anders Ahlbom Rosendahl) who’d mistreated her as a child and is now trying to lock her away in an asylum for good, and the brutish half-brother (Micke Spreitz) who’d served her father and now aims to avenge him.
Of course, there are a few good men around—not just Blomkvist but the kindly young doctor (Aksei Morisse) who befriends the initially unresponsive girl as she recovers from the near-death experience she suffered at the end of the second picture, “The Girl Who Played With Fire,” and not only prevents police and prosecutors from harassing her as long as he can but sneaks her phone into her hospital room. They’re the exception rather than the rule, however.
As directed by Daniel Alfredson (who also helmed “Fire”) for Swedish television, “Hornet’s Nest” pretty much requires an acquaintance with its two predecessors to make much sense; but it’s difficult to imagine anyone wanting to enter the story at the third installment anyway. In any event, it includes periodic flashbacks to earlier events to refresh the memories of viewers who might have forgotten bits and pieces of the plot. And for those who became devoted to the books or the previous movies, it will serve well enough.
It has to be said, though, that like the earlier installments, it really doesn’t offer all that many surprises. Perhaps on the printed page Larsson’s tale of a widespread net of governmental wrongdoing that caught a sad little girl up in its web was more compelling, but on the screen—at least in this incarnation (an English version is on the way)—it hasn’t proven all that exciting. The first of the films, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” remains easily the best, but this one is at least preferable to “Fire,” which was curiously dull and sluggish until its ridiculously bloody and protracted finale. “Hornet’s Nest” doesn’t have much action—an attempted killing in a restaurant is the high point in that regard, and isn’t especially well handled. It’s actually a talky legal procedural with a dose of “Three Days of the Condor” or “All the President’s Men” thrown into the mix.
But on that level it’s reasonably satisfying, generating some genuine suspense on its way to a satisfying conclusion in which the villains finally get what they deserve. The major flaw, frankly, is that most of the major players come across as remarkably incompetent—the cops, who can’t track down Lisbeth’s murderous half brother; the present government, which takes an unconscionably long time to corral the malefactors (and fails to protect its friends); and especially the evil conspirators, who are supposed to be shrewd and efficient but prove miserably klutzy when it comes to carrying off an assassination or putting together the evidence necessary to secure a conviction in court.
Still, the material dealing with Lisbeth and the Millennium staff is nicely handled and works for the most part, and Hallin adds spice as the dedicated but nervous attorney, while Morisse extracts more than anybody has a right to expect from the figure of the likable, laid-back doctor. And among the bad guys, Rosendahl deserves special recognition for fashioning a character so loathsome that you can’t wait for him to get his just deserts, however absurdly they come.
In this telling the Millennium trilogy hardly constitutes a classic thriller, and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” is hardly a great conclusion to it. But it’s better than its predecessor, and actually feels shorter than its 146-minure running-time—a significant accomplishment nowadays.