We used to ape world cinema for our own devices. You’d see Bergman creep into Woody Allen, maybe a little Kurosawa in your John Sturges, and a whole lot of John Woo in every action movie post-1990. America is nothing if not multicultural in its stolen ideas.

Things change. The past month, I’ve seen work from the French Martin Scorsese, the Cantonese Michael Mann and the Korean David Cronenberg. It’s that picture of the snake eating itself.

Now, with his adaptation of the best-selling novel “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” we’ve found the Swedish David Fincher in director Niels Arden Oplev.

The movie is the kind of dark entertainment at which Fincher excels, and at bargain-basement rates. I’m amazed this cost only $5 million; Fincher doing likewise would swell into nine digits. 

Oplev’s film, about how a missing girl intertwines the fates of disgraced journalist Michael Nyqvist and disturbed hacker Lisbeth Salander, has a brooding intensity. For a work overstuffed with the worst in human cruelty, it never feels stagnant or oppressive. 

It maintains this relentless pace – these are two-and-a-half hours that practically gallop – without sacrificing coherence. I haven’t read the novel, but the film never feels like a “get to the good parts” adaptation. It’s complete.

And it’s aided immeasurably by Noomi Rapace’s ferocious turn as Lisbeth. Rapace isn’t reinventing the wheel – as a construct, Lisbeth is an unwieldy fusion of stereotypical Goth girl and Ellen Ripley-esque avenging angel – but the role never feels familiar in Rapace’s hands. 

You’re drawn to her. The film doesn’t make it easy – Lisbeth does some ghastly things – and it’s a testament to Rapace that she never loses your sympathy.      

And as diverting as it all may be, I’ve seen this film before. Nyqvist’s trek through a missing girl’s history has the same dogged attention to detail as Fincher’s masterwork, “Zodiac,” and the sordid-chic aesthetic and graphic detail recall “Seven” to a tee. It makes for conflicted viewing.

Is this a good film? Yes. It’s violent and engrossing and never boring. Have I seen it before? Many, many times. It is very difficult to see Oplev as anything other than an ardent Fincher devotee copying the master’s hand.

As a result, I’d say while the film succeeds as entertainment, it fails as an original piece of art. 

“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” opens at the Nickelodeon on April 23. 

Note: As I write this, it’s been announced that the film will receive an American makeover.  The confirmed director: David Fincher.

Snake, try not to choke on your own gizzard.

Josh Katz is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.

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