The original title of the international bestseller, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, was Män Som Hatar Kvinnor (Men Who Hate Women). Never having read the book, I have no idea how faithful the movie version is, but without question, Men Who Hate Women would have done a far better job describing it.
The story has all the makings of a ripping crime thriller. Forty years after the disappearance and presumed death of his niece, eccentric millionaire Hendrik Vanger (Sven-Bertil Taube) hires disgraced Stockholm journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) to find her killer. The kicker is Vanger believes the murderer is a member of his secretive family. But Vanger's keeping a secret of his own-he's hired a brilliant young hacker to spy on Mikael and report back what she finds.
The clues Mikael finds are echoed in the life of the young woman who is researching him. Lisbeth Salander (Noomi Rapace) has spent her entire life being abused by one man or another, and she has developed such a sensitive eye for women's suffering, she's soon able to pinpoint evidence that Mikael doesn't recognize.
While misogyny is a running theme throughout this R-rated film, several unrelenting scenes of rape do more to contribute to the belittling of women than condemn it. It's not the violence Lisbeth suffers-that's an integral part of her character. But the incidents are filmed with such excruciating detail, it's as if director Niels Arden Oplev wants the audience to be as titillated by her rape as the rapist is. The fact that he later shows Lisbeth engaging in explicit consensual sex seems to underline that intention.
Word is an American version of Stieg Larsson's novel is already in the works. In a perfect world, that movie will retain the style and intelligence of the Swedish film while losing its gross fascination with depicting sexual sadism.