By Adam Spunberg

Take the witches from MacBeth and give them this to stir in their cauldron: a Swedish film series with subtitles, multiple rapes, sadistic serial killers, lesbian action, brutal arson, attempted patricide, and  probably the most kickass, coolest, baddest, awesomest, Gothic heroine ever.  And you have one adrenaline joyride of a movie for soccer moms worldwide.

Of course, soccer moms are hardly the target demographic, but the point is that the trilogy manages to appeal to everyone despite its hauntingly dark subject matter. A smart script and suspenseful storyline are partly the cause for such widespread infatuation, but the real champion here is actress Noomi Rapace. Her screen presence is so jaw-droppingly good that her name was tossed around for a repeat performance in the American version, set to feature Daniel Craig and a host of all-star cast members. That won’t happen, but you can be sure no substitute will fill her colossal shoes.

Rapace plays the enthralling Lisbeth Salander, a hacker extraordinaire with a vicious past and a secretly soft heart.  She may be tough as adamantium on the outside, but it’s the tiny morsels of femininity that ignite her charm. Resourceful, cunning, and bristling with vengeance, she exacts her revenge with a face of stone, yet speaks sweetly and sincerely.  She is lost but perfectly independent, abused but in need of no help, fearless except when it comes to love, the one thing she has been famished of throughout her existence.

Enter Mikael Blomkvist (played by the similar-sounding Michael Nyqvist), a shrewd journalist who recognizes Salander’s brilliance and takes an interest in her abilities.  Salander is uncomfortable around Blomkvist, because he’s the first genuinely decent man she’s gotten to know, and they form an unlikely duet assigned to solve a mystery.  Blomkvist respects her space, even as his curiosity blossoms but continues to remain unquenched.  Where this special connection will lead, neither of them knows, and they both go about their business without letting it affect the matters at hand.

The series also brandishes its share of contemptible villains.  They make for a perfect foil against the spirited Salander and saintly Blomkvist.  So far, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire have been released in the United States, with the third installment – The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest – to follow on October 15.  If you weren’t aware, the movies are based on the late Stieg Larsson’s bestselling trilogy, and all three books have received a massive boost in sales since their cinematic versions became so popular. The first film was directed superbly by Niels Arden Oplev, with the second and third movies passed over to the competent hands of director Daniel Alfredson.

Expect there to be some Best Foreign Language Film Oscar buzz as awards season approaches, though the fact that there are three films could hurt the chances of each one individually (much like Lord of the Rings). If I had to pick, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo would get my endorsement. But regardless of all that, make sure you are all caught up and scorched up for the finale in October, because it should be something exhilarating.  In the meantime, go Lisbeth!