The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

Some genres come and go with changing tastes while others endure.  Seemingly never out of favour are whodunits with their various guises bringing ghoulish delight to those enjoying solving assorted grisly crimes.  Making them last is their adaptability with any era as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo attests.  Based on the best-selling Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson, this Swedish thriller effectively uses Switzerland’s glacial snowscapes.

Writing for the investigative magazine Millennium, Mikael (Michael Nyqvist) reels from a nasty libel case.  Salvation arrives when he is asked to assist Henrik Vanger, the head of a powerful family.  Tasked with exploring the mysterious disappearance of his treasured niece forty years ago, the list of suspects appears endless.  Helping him is young punk Lisbeth (Noomi Rapace) a troubled but brilliant computer hacker.  Reaching into the dark past with skill, they discover a serial killer lurks amongst the upper echelons of Swiss society.

This entertaining mystery revels in its fountain of secrets.  Chief amongst these is Lisbeth’s murky background with her unorthodox sense of justice jarring against Mikael’s pragmatic approach.  This sense of conflict adds another intriguing layer to a complex tale refusing to let go.  Although uncomfortably brutal viewing at times, the story gains kudos for refusing to shy away from some heavy themes.  This harsh reality also extends to the psychology of our intrepid detectives who have their own demons to fight.  Almost every character seems damaged in some way, with their ability to solve a crime almost hindered by their fractured minds. 

Certainly there are some clichéd elements of the genre creeping in, although its mixture of suspense with commentary on the darker aspects of society keep things fresh.  Issues of rape, male dominance and the privilege of wealth bring a harder edge to the formula without seeming too contrived.  Worthy of note is the fantastic cinematography which captures the scope of the mystery.  Opening up the puzzle to cover a world-wide hunt, this makes a refreshing change from the enclosed feel of other thrillers. 

With two more movies already filmed, the trilogy arrives in fine style with ‘Tattoo’.  Grittier and focused on characters more than others, this Swedish film does the job in wanting to see the next instalment of this potentially interesting series.

Rating out of 10:  8

Cop Out

Usually we see films to be entertained and enlightened.  When the curtain parts to a new venture there’s hope a memorable experience will await.  Sadly Cop Out lives up to its title as an essay on sleepy film-making.  Devoid of the ragged charms of Kevin Smith’s previous directing efforts and filled with some painfully unfunny performances, Cop Out places a black mark on his resume.
NYPD cops Jimmy (Bruce Willis) and Paul (Tracy Morgan) have recently been suspended due to a failed assignment.  Desperate to pay for his daughter’s wedding, Jimmy decides to sell a valuable baseball card.  Whilst at the dealer he becomes involved in a robbery involving Dean (Sean William Scott).  When Dean steals the card and sells it to a local drug baron, Jimmy and Paul attempt to retrieve the card and eradicate the drug kingpin’s power in their own bumbling manner.
Kevin Smith’s films have usually had something unique amongst their often bawdy humour.  Filled with character based comedy steeped in everyday realism, those qualities have made his patchiest movies watchable.  There is none of that in Cop Out, with the formulaic approach focussing on a broad range of comedy styles.  To be fair Smith didn’t write the script and seemingly directs the enterprise with an eye on his paycheck.  In fact everyone involved appears to sleep-walk their way through the intermittent action and endless potty mouthed antics.
Having a great 80’s style soundtrack by Harold Faltermeyer, Cop Out is very much Smith’s version of that era’s buddy cop genre.  It’s a pity it’s such a weak rip-off as even the expected gun-play lacks the necessary punch.  There’s a tired feel throughout, with Morgan’s endless diatribe against life’s injustices no substitute for engaging wit.  The feeble plot becomes a cipher for his routine with Willis going through the motions as his aggrieved partner.  Ultimately Cop Out commits the crime of being boring which, from the hands of an interesting director, becomes doubly unfortunate.
Cop Out is a ‘nothing film’  with nothing of note to make it stand out.  Those wanting undemanding laughs may obtain something, although this lifeless production will likely fail to register once the cinema lights flick back on.
Rating out of 10:  1