When we first see Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) in The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, the final adaptation of Stieg Larsson's "Millennium" trilogy, she is being transported to a hospital in Gothenburg, bloodied almost beyond recognition, the result of a bullet put in her brain by Zalachenko, her barbaric father, at the very end of Part II, The Girl Who Played with Fire. Her pummeled, gore-covered body was a recurring image in Hornet's Nest predecessors, particularly the first, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which seemed to get more sick kicks out of depicting the sexual and physical violence done to Salander by the Men Who Hate Women (Larsson's indelible original title for Dragon Tattoo) than condemning it. Hornet's Nest quickly dispenses with the obligatory scenes of its tiny heroine's traumatized body, including extreme close-ups of a small rectangle being cut from her noggin on the operating table. Its bloated running time is filled instead by a convoluted procedural whose plot hinges on the opening and closing of MacBooks, and an abundance of indistinguishable old and middle-aged evil, pale patriarchs in ties and sweater vests.
As in Played with Fire, which, like this film, was directed by Daniel Alfredson, the heroes of the trilogy — bi computer hacker Salander and her infatuated savior, Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist), coeditor of the muckraking Millennium journal — are apart for almost all of Hornet's Nest's 148 minutes. Salander recovers in her hospital room, where she narrowly escapes being killed by the First Sinister Old White Man, before resuming friendly chats with her benevolent doctor ("It's understandable that you're tired") and makeshift strength training with a surgical glove. Once better, she is remanded to a prison cell in Stockholm, awaiting trial for attempting to murder Zalachenko; Salander and her attorney, Annika (Annika Hallin), Blomkvist's sister, will plead self-defense. And Blomkvist will insist to the three other people on Millennium's masthead, when they aren't deciding what kind of sushi to order for lunch, that they print the latest issue — which will uncover the vast conspiracy that led to Salander's repeated abuse by the state — before the judges hear her case.
That malevolent network, called "the Section" — a rogue group of politicians, law enforcers, and psychiatrists formed 30-plus years ago, dedicated to protecting Soviet defector Zalachenko — committed Salander to a mental institution at age 12 and would now like to return her there for good so that they can continue raping, sex-trafficking, and consuming child pornography with impunity. "It's like a classic Greek tragedy," someone not wearing a sweater vest says about the increasingly implausible plot threads (which also includes Salander's jumbo half-brother, still at large and out for blood, and Serbian assassin brothers).
Those who have been stirred by Salander's wrath and wiry might in the past will this time have to settle for a few minutes of her doing calisthenics while in stir, a bit of nastiness with a nail gun, and her biggest fuck-you to Scandi propriety: dressing in full leather fetish wear with Aqua-Netted mohawk and Clockwork Orange–inspired eye makeup during her trial. Limited to the facial expressions of permahate throughout the trilogy, Rapace has given her chiseled cheeks and coal-black eyes, burning with the intensity of a million midnight suns, a thorough workout. (If The Social Network's Rooney Mara, who will play Salander in David Fincher's Dragon Tattoo remake, can't scowl as effectively, she at least comes with brand recognition: The Girl Who Inadvertently Inspired Facebook.)
Having never read a page of Larsson's books, I can make no claims to Hornet's Nest's fealty to its original source. But, like the first two Millennium movies, this final installment feels thoughtlessly put together, its script unpruned and rushed through, all to capitalize on the staggering worldwide popularity of its dead author. "We have not been able to process all this new information," the judge overseeing Salander's case says after Annika lays out the Section's evils. Maybe she's speaking on the filmmakers' behalf.