Jane Campion returns after four years with an unexpected erotic thriller. It is an adaptation of the shocking novel by Susanna Moore. Not only is it unexpected for Jane Campion to take on a story involving a serial killer but it is also a complete turn around for Meg Ryan who is usually found in light hearted romantic comedies. In the Cut is a gritty, bleak and sexually charged thriller.Meg Ryan plays Frannie, a smart and self-determined woman who leads a fairly isolated existence. It is revealed from conversations with her half-sister Pauline (Jennifer Jason Leigh) that it has been few and far between dates for Frannie. The only hint of a previous relationship is some brief encounters with a particularly nutty John Graham (played by an uncredited Kevin Bacon). This is in stark contrast to Pauline’s social lifestyle - who seems to enjoy a very active sex life. This soon changes after a grisly murder in her neighbourhood leads to the discovery of a body part in her garden. Detective James Malloy turns up at her door for some routine questioning and Frannie seems less interested in the murder details than the man standing in her apartment.
Malloy asks Frannie out and encouraged by Pauline, she decides to take him up on the offer. Frannie soon learns that Malloy is a typically crude New York cop – he is blunt and somewhat vulgar when he discusses sex. But Frannie finds herself intrigued by his sexual confidence and is drawn into a potentially dangerous affair.
Another murder occurs and it looks like a serial killer is on the loose. Cornelius, an intense John Wayne Gacy obsessed student of Frannie’s, becomes a key suspect. In the meantime Frannie begins to fear that Malloy himself could be the murderer but still continues with their risky liaison. Ex-boyfriend John’s manic outbursts also mean he cannot be excluded from the list of suspects. In fact, every male character in the film has enough menace in their personalities to make them capable of carrying out the atrocious crimes haunting the city.
Performances are great all round. After seeing Meg Ryan’s portrayal of Frannie, it is hard to imagine Nicole Kidman (who was originally cast) playing the part. Mark Ruffalo is a standout – even though his character is creepy and rather unlikable, he plays Malloy with such confidence that it he demands attention in every one of his scenes.
Jane Campion’s presentation of New York is harsh and realistic. It is shot as a dark and rainy city still suffering from the grief of September 11. Add to that a serial killer lurking in the darkness and a menacing mood is felt throughout the entire film.
Thankfully, Campion did not feel the need to show audiences the violence carried out during the killings, even if the aftermath is quite graphic. This is something that Seven proved was not necessary when making an effective thriller. The most confronting moments in the movie are the raw sex scenes between Frannie and Malloy which are quite daring for the actors involved. Some may feel that these were unnecessary but it is based on a much more explicit novel and they are much more realistic than what is normally shown on the big screen – it is difficult to recall any Hollywood love scenes where the male reaches over for a condom before engaging in some horizontal folk dancing.In The Cut is an eerie and intelligent thriller that has the potential to divide fans of Campion’s previous works and the thriller genre alike. It is darker than she has ever gone before, but considering that such an intense and daring book was written by a female author, this adaptation is in perfect hands.