Let’s get it out straight away. Noomi Rapace, the original Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish version of the tattooed lady, still haunts my dreams. She just had that purplish-black dark night of the soul patina that went right to the heart of the matter — the matter being my personal heart.

It’s fair to say that only those who sipped free espresso in the art houses got to see the original. Besides, it was subtitled and middle-American ticket buyers don’t like to read while watching all sorts of beautiful people make love and mayhem on the screen. I can dig that. Of course Hollywood has more seats to fill, so they went out and brought Rooney Mara and Daniel Craig and director David Fincher (“7”, “Social Network”) to suck as much money as they could out of Stieg Larsson’s novel.

Here we have Rooney Mara, who had a small but sweet part as Mark Zuckerberg’s girlfriend in “The Social Network.” It was so small you might well have forgotten her. That won’t happen again. As Lisbeth, she is required to house — inside a taut but slender frame — all the pain, anger and thirst for revenge of a damaged child. Mara delivers, just as Rapace did, like a FedEx girl from Hell.

The story is faithful to Larson’s best-selling novel, and we have to say that if one has not read the book or seen the original, much of the plot can be confusing.

Disgraced and humilated writer Mikael Blomkvist (Daniel Craig) has lost it all, reputation and money, to a libel lawsuit. But when the rent comes due and his editor (Robin Wright) is feeling sorry for him, Mikael is offered a job to go north and work out a family mystery on the Vanger family island. The patriarch of this scurrilous, filthy rich family (Christopher Plummer) has been pining for 40 years over the disappearance and probably murder of his beloved niece Harriet, who vanished in 1966. He wants a solution before he dies. There will be one. Prepare yourself. Plummer is at his best, like fine cheese and even finer wine, Plummer has aged with grace and charm. He never fails us.

Journalist cum detective Mikael is given a freezing cottage and lots of things to look at while he pursues his investigation. His only companion in isolation, is a sweet kitty. Keep your eye on the cat.

Wrapped in blankets and stoked with cigarettes and vodka, Mikael has piles of photos and letters to sort through. He sets up a command center, while he meets and greets the other members of the family. It’s clear that our Mikael is going to need help, and through strange and misty connections, he is assigned Lisbeth Salander, the greatest hacker on the planet, who comes wrapped in black leather and spiky hair, Evening Shadow eyeliner, kick-butt boots, a cool motorcycle, bisexual tendencies and the requisite tattoo, which by the way, wasn’t quite as good as Noomi’s. Oh! Noomi.

All of the original Lisbeth’s personal baggage is here and intact. She is still a state ward and has access to a benefactor’s great wealth, only if she behaves herself and doesn’t scare the horses.

Her money is doled out monthly by a court-appointed fascist pervert lawyer who insists Lisbeth perform for him, and he doesn’t mean card tricks or tap dancing. The sex scenes involving the monstrous pig are vivid and real. Know going in that Fincher’s American version doesn’t mean it had to pass the Christian League’s board of certification. Some of the rape scenes are difficult to watch. The consensual linkings between Craig and Rooney are quite something else. Whatever you can’t remember about Rooney’s body in “Social Network” will forever be reinstated in your brain box.

All of the adventures in the snowy dark of this island that startled us in the original, startle again. There are different faces of course, but the new ones are brilliantly etched by Mara and Craig at the top. Craig has his homage moves to Steve McQueen down pat, but surpasses the 70’s star with better-quality acting. And then there is Stellan Skarsgard as Uncle Martin, who, in every role he plays, deliciously scuttles about promising to surprise us with devilish tricks.

And certainly, there is Yorick van Wageningen as the loathsome rapist lawyer. This sort of thing is difficult to play, and those of us who remember his fine work in “Winter in Wartime,” rush to forgive him. The lovely Robin Wright as the chief editor of Mikael’s paper, has little to do, but does it professionally as always.

Jeff Cronenweth’s camera work is all properly moody and haunting. Set in the north of Sweden just after Christmas, Cronenweth captures each breathtaking setup in vivid takes. In this version, his work far surpasses the original.

This “Girl” isn’t doing as well at the box-office as some of this season’s big-screen thrillers, but having seen most of them, I would rate it an A. It will be interesting to see if the other two “Girl With” epics will be forthcoming.

J.P Devine is a former stage and screen actor.


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