'Dragon Tattoo' is not to be missed

If you missed The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the first film based on Swedish crime novelist Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, when it played in theaters, you should check it out before the second, The Girl Who Played With Fire, opens.

It's a faithful, exciting adaptation of the book that set off a worldwide publishing phenomenon. The third novel, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, was released recently in America and has become a best seller.

The heroine is Lisbeth Salander (played by Noomi Rapace in both movies), a lithe young computer hacker who might look vulnerable but is not to be messed with. In Dragon Tattoo, her admiration for a muckraking journalist named Mikael Blomkvist (Michael Nyqvist) draws her to a case involving the disappearance of the niece of a wealthy industrialist 40 years before. Blomkvist is facing a prison sentence for libel when, after evidence vanishes, he is unable to prove accusations against a corrupt businessman. Forced to take a leave of absence from the magazine for which he writes and edits, he takes a job looking into the unsolved case.

The disappearance has always haunted the aging patriarch of the family, and he wants answers before he dies.

Lisbeth, an orphan who has gotten numerous raw deals since childhood, believes Mikael has gotten one, too, and starts feeding him clues about both mysteries via the Internet. But things become more complicated when the two hook up. Be warned that the dark film has some unsettling moments, including a brutal rape scene.

The pierced and tattooed bisexual Lisbeth is not your typical lead. She is very much the rough-edged character described in the book, and Rapace brings her to life with a fierce and kinetic performance.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo retails for $29.95 or $34.95 on Blu-ray.