Owen Gleiberman
October 21, 2010 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Beatdowns and race-against-the-clock chase scenes. Secret bank accounts and secret police files. A woman dragged to a barn by a goon who powers up a chain saw. Blackmail by sex DVD. A bully boy who might be an android. A girl buried alive. A big wow of a ?No, I am your father!? revelation. Vicious, seething men subjected to vicious, seething payback. A fatal inferno. Burn, baby, burn!

If The Girl Who Played With Fire were an American thriller—which, in all likelihood, it will soon become—it would be a very, very typical one, full of tropes and mysteries and vengeful, reductive emotions we?ve all seen many times. Yet as adapted from the second novel in Stieg Larsson?s soberly sensational trilogy, the Swedish film version of the sequel to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo looks and feels a bit more original than it is. Once again, the sinewy Noomi Rapace plays Lisbeth as a kind of living, breathing anime heroine: a damaged, mostly silent genius-punk-freak of feminine retaliation. The rest of the movie is violent, sordid pulp stewed in an atmosphere of Swedish austerity—witness the casting of dour, pockmarked Michael Nyqvist as valiant Millennium magazine reporter Mikael Blomkvist, or the way that the film?s evil conspiracy turns out to be more backwoods, less Mob-grandiose, than you expect. I found The Girl Who Played With Fire more gripping than Dragon Tattoo, because this one doesn?t just play with thriller conventions—it puts them to work. B+

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