rating: 3.5For those who may have been on a desert island, or whose e-reader has something against Scandinavians, The Girl Who Played With Fire is the second in Stieg Larssons acclaimed crime and punishment trilogy featuring the dogged and multi-dimensional characters of Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace), the girl in question, and the crusading journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist). In the latest installment Salander, after returning to Stockholm from the Caribbean and apparently not short of cash, finds herself attempting to clear her name after her guardian Bjurman (a man shes literally marked out as a rapist and sadistic pig) is murdered with a gun covered in her fingerprints. Things arent helped by the fact that a journalist working on a prostitution expose at Blomkvists magazine, Millennium, and his PhD student girlfriend, are found dead from the same weapon. Salander tells Blomkvist that shes innocent, but his faith in her is already seemingly unshakeable as he pursues a parallel course in trying to clear her name, on the search for the mysterious character named Zala. In their way are the ubiquitous, plodding but essentially good-hearted police, as personified by the officiously rumpled Jan Bublanski (Johan Kylén), and the monolithic blonde psychopath, Niedermann (Micke Spreitz), a character with a greater connection to Salander than she could imagine. The film unfolds by plot reveal following plot reveal as we get closer to the aforementioned Zala, and the reasons for its combustible title. Salander and Blomkvist, seemingly disjointed for much of the running time, eventually coming together in a viciously blunt denouement. The first chapter in the trilogy The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, directed by Niels Arden Oplev, was notable for its willingness to eschew a slavering devotion to Larssens every novelistic pulse, creating a masterclass in thriller adaptation for the screen, but thats something that new director Daniel Alfredson has failed to capitalize on. Perhaps there was a feeling that Larsson deserved a more reverential translation from page to picture, and there be many that agree, but it unfortunately creates the feeling that you are actually watching a novel. The fact that the film makers allow hardly any concession to those who are unfamiliar with the first film compounds the uneasy feeling that youve been invited into a game without being told all the rules. By the end I still wasnt exactly sure where all that Caribbean living came from. Thats not to say that The Girl Who Played With Fire is like watching confused, cinematic paint dry, the characters alone are worth the price of admission, but its difficult to shake the idea that it would have worked better as a TV two-parter. And not that Im recommending the moronic histrionics of Michael Bay but its also not helped by cinematography that becomes almost sedentary in an apparent mantra of unflashy reality, and a choice of film stock that would seem better served on a small screen. Noomi Rapace is a magnetic presence throughout but in the end shes somewhat ill-served by the film around her, as Salander veers dangerously close to two dimensions, with moments that would have probably served as internal monologue in the book becoming a moments pause of sitting down and apple eating. Actions come about like a stage on a pre-planned journey and not the organic motivations of someone trying to reach for a storys end. Michael Nyqvist fares somewhat better, helped by his open expression and the fact that his character Blomqvist is at least allowed moments of confusion as he tries to piece together the continuing hazard that is his friends existence. If youre a fan of the books, and if youve seen The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo then sitting down for chapter two is probably a no-brainer. As for the uninitiated like myself blame could possibly be carried for expecting ignorance to be served by the film makers, but theres always something worrying when the thought of a Hollywood remake actually fills me with a degree of enthusiasm. The Girl Who Played With Fire is on release today.