‘Girl in the Spider Web’ heads into action hero territory

Claire Foy assumes lead role in ‘Girl in the Spider Web’

‘The Girl in the SPIDER’S WEB’

Grade: 2 stars (out of 4)

Rating: R for violence, language and some sexual content/nudity

Starring: Claire Foy (above)

Running time: 1:55

By Jake Coyle

AP Film Writer

The latest, revamped iteration of Stieg Larsson’s thrillers has some superhero DNA.

This, Lisbeth Salander’s third big-screen incarnation in nine years, has morphed the avenging Stockholm hacker into a blander action hero, complete with a Batman-and-Robin-like band of white across her eyes. Following the spikier Swedish trilogy, with Noomi Rapace, and David Fincher’s menacing and murky “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” with Rooney Mara, we can almost palpably feel Lisbeth (Claire Foy this time) being lured out of the shadows and toward a more mainstream movie realm. In this latest chapter, Lisbeth strives, like a Scandinavian 007, to keep a world-threatening atomic weapons program dubbed “Firefall” out of the wrong hands.

“The Girl in the Spider’s Web,” directed by Uruguayan-born Fede Alvarez (“Don’t Breathe,” 2013’s “Evil Dead” reboot), smooths away some of the rough edges of a saga predicated on them, resulting in a competent but indistinguishable thriller. Lisbeth, a volatile cyberpunk vigilante propelled by her own demons of abuse, remains a great character in search of a decent plot.

Such exchanges, though, quickly recede in favor of a larger conspiracy that ropes in the NSA (Lakeith Stanfield plays an agent), a Russian gang called the Spiders (with Claes Bang) and the Swedish authorities. It begins when Salander is approached by a former NSA agent (Stephen Merchant) who built the software program but who now (only now?) is concerned that the ability to launch every nuclear weapon on the planet might actually be a bad idea.

Soon, all manner of bad guys are after him, his young but brilliant son (Christopher Convery) and Salander. The investigative journalist Mikael Blomkvist (Sverrir Gudnason in the part previously Daniel Craig and Michael Nyqvist) is around at times but makes little of an impression.

“The Girl in the Spider’s Web,” penned by Alvarez, Steven Knight and Jay Basu, is based on fourth novel in the series and the first written by David Lagercrantz. (Larsson died in 2004.) They haven’t done Foy, one of the most exciting actresses around, any favors in saddling her with a forgettable international espionage tale. The superlative cast, generally, is wasted, including Vicky Krieps, Stanfield and Bang.

But as compelling as Foy is, she’s also missing a quality that any Lisbeth ought to have, and it has nothing to do with shedding the primness of her Queen Elizabeth II for Salander’s jet-black hair and piercings. The greatest tension in Larsson’s “Millennium” series is how Salander so bristles with unease in the world, even while she expertly manipulates everything in it. No such conflict is found in “Spider’s Web,” a commonplace thriller.

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