For those sucked into the shiversome vortex of Swedish thrillers based on the late Stieg Larsson’s massive best-selling trilogy, take heart. Relief and resolution are at hand with the arrival of the satisfying finale, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest. The third film — whose actual translated title is the more lyrical The Air Castle That Exploded — is, by nature, the least violent and explicitly sordid of the three parts. Much of the dastardly deeds, patriarchal foul play,and profoundly bad manners are told in retrospect, in courtrooms, flashbacks, and damning evidence on videotape.
We rejoin our long, twisting (and twisted) story in the hospital, picking up after the seemingly hopeless ending of the previous film, The Girl Who Played with Fire. But even the hospital is a dangerous place in the world according to Larsson. Implicit in the tense scenario are some familiar genre patterns, including the kick-ass woman coolly exacting her revenge over gross injustices. Young Noomi Rapace plays, with a gritty effectiveness, the abused Girl Who Kicked Ass. The trilogy also plays off the archetype of the still-active power of the press — particularly, one dogged journalist — to reveal lurking embedded pockets of evil buried deep within the government. While the wheels of justice slowly find their way into gear, at last, even the final installment bristles with the special tension indigenous to this particular work.
In the final rub, the trilogy occupies a cultural niche somewhere between “real” literature and cinema and the stuff of embossed paperback books, or airplane reads. At one point in this film, an observer of the tortured saga says “it’s like a Greek tragedy,” but that may be a too-lofty appraisal. It ain’t art, it ain’t pulp, but it sure is perversely entertaining.