We have heard about “The Continuing Mysteries of Stieg Larsson” — his untimely death at age 50 before the publication of his Millennium Trilogy, and his fourth manuscript, so far unpublished and enveloped in controversy.

We are aware that Stieg Larsson’s Millennium TrilogyThe Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest — is the biggest phenomenon to hit book publishing since Harry Potter, but we have not read the books and most likely never will. We just don’t get around to that many crime novels.

Now and then, though, we do rent a movie — so when Amy‘s friend recommended The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, we made some popcorn and settled in on our sofa.

An American adaptation starring Daniel Craig and Rooney Mara is scheduled for release on December 21, 2011. We watched the Swedish film, which stars Michael Nyqvist as investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Millennium is his magazine) and Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander, a troubled young computer hacker with a dragon tattoo on her back. Reading the English subtitles, I was struck by the similarity of many words in Swedish, and was certain that I could become fluent in that language with just a few repeated viewings.

Again, I have not read the book, and few movies are ever as good as the books upon which they’re based. As a movie, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is okay. It’s professionally produced, and it succeeds in stimulating a little of the same adrenaline that you get from other violence-and-revenge thrillers — like the better Mel Gibson movies, for example.

But in many respects, this film leaves much to be desired. The detective plot and its twists are slapdash and facile. The two main characters are so lifeless that at one point, when Mikael remarks that he knows virtually nothing about Lisbeth, she literally just shrugs it off. The setting for most of the story — a Swedish estate in winter — is stodgy. At 2 hours and 32 minutes, the movie is a bit long.

What’s really striking about The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is its brutality. As the story unfolds, murders are recounted which feature horrific mutilations. Early on, there are sequences in which people are subjected to shocking street violence and then savage sexual torture. When the resolution finally occurs at the end of the movie, its violence is almost anticlimactic and cliché by comparison.

Something bad happened to the young hacker, Lisbeth Salander, which caused her to be so troubled. We see glimpses of it, and hear it referenced opaquely.

Something happened as well to novelist Stieg Larsson, according to Wikipedia:

Larsson, who was disgusted by sexual violence, witnessed the gang rape of a young girl when he was 15. The author never forgave himself for failing to help the girl, whose name was Lisbeth – like the young heroine of his books, herself a rape victim, which inspired the theme of sexual violence against women in his books.

All in all, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is at least as troubling as it is entertaining. I don’t think you would me missing that much if you decided to skip it.

For those who are fans, a DVD box set of The Stieg Larsson Trilogy including The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, plus edited TV versions of The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest and numerous extras, was just released on February 22.