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Ten Word or Less Review:  Good, engrossing thriller.  Not quite a classic.

I find it difficult to write about phenomenon.  I never wrote about “Inception.”  They usually don’t live up to the hype, “Inception” did, and it’s hard to add anything to the hyperbole that comes with them.  Such is almost the case with “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.”  An unlikely literary success story, deceased author Steig Larsson has crafted, well I don’t know what he’s crafted because I haven’t read it.  But the Swedish movie based on his excessively popular novel is a pretty decent thing.  It’s a solid mystery and it has a grizzly edge to it in places which distinguishes it from other stories of the type.  But as solid as it is, I’m lost as to why entire nations have been swept up into this craze.  It’s a good, not quite great, thing.

“Tattoo” follows the dual stories of Mikael and Lisbeth.  Mikael is a disgraced magazine publisher facing jail time for falsifying evidence against some corporate evil doers.  Lisbeth wears leather and spikes to work as a researcher who exceeds at her skills in hunting down information but is very unstable emotionally.  Before serving jail time, Mikael is solicited by a wealthy business man to investigate the 40 year old disappearance of his niece.  Though no new leads have emerged in years Mikael is compelled to take a stab at finding out what happened to the disappeared girl.  Unbeknownst to him Lisbeth has been spying on him through his computer and gradually becomes interested in his attempt to unravel a generation old mystery.  They eventually form an unlikely partnership and their investigation takes them to dangerous places.

As a work of mystery “Tattoo” is sturdy, well thought out and crafted with care.  Its twists aren’t readily apparent from any great distance but nor are they really mind blowing once revealed.  What pushes “Tattoo” in a more provocative direction is the character of the title, Lisbeth.  We know from the get go that Lisbeth is troubled, and though her past is part of her problem Larsson throws on a vile, rapist parole officer to give the audience someone to really hate with a passion.  “Tattoo” contains not one, but two vivid sequences in which Lisbeth is raped.  Director Niels Oplev doesn’t pull many punches with these scenes and those with weaker dispositions and easily turned off by rough depictions of violence would be wise to watch something else.  It’s hard to imagine an American remake following through quite as thoroughly as the work here does.  These grim beats don’t have a lot of direct payoff within the story at hand but it’s apparent that the emotional consequences of past and present will play a part in the next two installments.

People love a good mystery, and a little sadism as well, and “Tattoo” has just enough to make someone stand up and pay attention.  I can’t quite put together what about the material has drawn so many legions of fans, but I digress.  Maybe I should just read the book.  As far as film mysteries go “Tattoo” is a little short of being a real classic of the genre, but worth a look by curious film goers and devoted fans of the source material.


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