Ripley's Game

  • 2001
  • Movie
  • R
  • Crime, Drama

Chronologically the third of Patricia Highsmith's five Ripley novels, Liliana Cavani's film transplants the novel's action from France to Italy. Now middle aged and hugely wealthy by virtue of his canny dealings in forged and stolen paintings, Tom Ripley (John Malkovich) is married to pianist Louisa (Chiara Caselli) and has nearly finished renovating a vast...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Chronologically the third of Patricia Highsmith's five Ripley novels, Liliana Cavani's film transplants the novel's action from France to Italy. Now middle aged and hugely wealthy by virtue of his canny dealings in forged and stolen paintings, Tom Ripley (John Malkovich) is married to pianist Louisa (Chiara Caselli) and has nearly finished renovating a vast country mansion. Invited to a party by local frame maker Jonathan Trevanny (Dougray Scott), who's done some work for him, Ripley overhears Trevanny mocking his nouveau riche taste in interior design. Outwardly unruffled, the seething Ripley awaits a chance to make Trevanny pay, perhaps by exploiting the fact that Trevanny has incurable leukemia and has no means of providing for his widow-to-be, Sarah (Lena Heady), and their small son, Matthew (the singularly charmless Sam Blitz). Ripley's opportunity comes in the form of Reeves (Ray Winstone), an old criminal associate whom Ripley once cheated. Now a Berlin-based club owner, Reeves needs someone to kill a Russian gangster and wants Ripley to do the job; Ripley instead suggests Trevanny, telling Reeves exactly how to manipulate his knowledge of Trevanny's failing health and fear of leaving Sarah and Matthew impoverished. Once Trevanny has become a killer, Reeves bullies him into agreeing to a second murder for hire. But the mercurial Ripley is over the fit of pique that prompted to torment Trevanny, allies himself with his former victim and angles for a way to get Reeves into hot water. The whole sordid situation culminates in a STRAW DOGS (1971) style siege from which only the ever-slippery Ripley emerges unscathed. Though more faithful to the letter of Highsmith's novel than Wim Wenders' THE AMERICAN FRIEND (1977), this is a far less successful film. Highsmith's novel is set some 20 years after Talented Mr. Ripley, and while Malkovich is somewhat older than her Ripley, his silky manner, petulant voice and vaguely reptilian gaze make him ideal casting for the charming sociopath in middle age. Unfortunately, he's mired in a film whose tone is consistently off: The supporting performances are pitched all over the scale — Scott is truly terrible — the pacing is sluggish and at least one key sequence, which involves a series of murders aboard a moving train, plays like a demented comedy sketch. Made in the wake of the success of Anthony Minghella's THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY (1999), Caviani's film was acquired by Fine Line Features for US theatrical distribution but eventually debuted on cable television in December 2003 and went to video a few months later.

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  • Released: 2001
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Chronologically the third of Patricia Highsmith's five Ripley novels, Liliana Cavani's film transplants the novel's action from France to Italy. Now middle aged and hugely wealthy by virtue of his canny dealings in forged and stolen paintings, Tom Ripley (… (more)

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