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Awesome: 15.79%
Worth A Look: 31.58%
Pretty Bad: 5.26%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 13 user ratings

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Ripley's Game
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by MP Bartley

"A great character in search of a great movie."
3 stars

What is it about Tom Ripley that directors and actors keep coming back to? Anthony Minghella, Wim Wenders, Dennis Hopper, Matt Damon and now John Malkovich have made their attempt at stamping their authority on Patricia Highsmith's anti-hero. And like the other attempts, it's a hit-and-miss approach. Malkovich is wonderful; the film, frankly, isn't. So perhaps the question is, what is the elusive quality that is attractive to film-makers yet so difficult to transfer to screen?

Tom Ripley is now a good 20 years older since we last saw him and is in the form of John Malkovich. Living in luxury in France, he's no longer the wandering misfit he was, with wealth now his and a beautiful woman by his side.

This relaxed life is about to change, however. An old acquaintance gets in touch; Saunders (Ray Winstone) has a problem. His restaurant business is being threatened by Bavarian gangsters who are running their own business and stealing Saunders' customers. Saunders, knowing Ripley's socio-pathic tendencies, wants him to eliminate them. Ripley wants nothing to do with it, but knows someone they can use. Jonathan (Dougray Scott) is a local restoration artist who recently insulted Ripley at a party. He's also dying of leukaemia. Ripley views him as the ideal subject of an experiment to turn a mild-mannered man into an assassin....

The most pleasurable thing about 'Ripley's Game' is that it pisses all over Minghella's 'Talented Mr Ripley'. Whereas that was an over-inflated piece of fluff, high on its own self-importance, 'Ripley's Game' is a sleek, leisurely paced thriller. Director Cavani far surpasses Minghella's stuffy, dull piece when it comes to little things like tension and interest. The scene where Jonathan loiters nervously in a museum waiting for his target to arrive is far more memorable than anything Minghella conjured up (apart from Jude Law getting whacked in the face with an oar and his face splits open. That was cool.).

Having said that, however, she's certainly no Hitchcock. Ripley and Jonathan waiting on a train for the rest of the gangsters to arrive and be killed off, would have been dynamite in the hands of Hitch.'s not. It's like the rest of the film, perfectly fine and acceptable, but nothing startling. It could have been a scene wracked with tension; unfortunately it's not half as gripping as it could and should have been.

And to give Minghella his due, his film positively glowed with the sun of France. Cavani, however, captures none of the extravagance and sun-kissed beauty of the place, instead crafting a thriller that is surprisingly drab.

But despite these shortcomings, I'd still take 'Ripleys Game' over 'The Talented Mr Ripley' every time. Why? For one simple reason. Malkovich OWNS Ripley. Like the way Hannibal Lecter is inconceivable without thinking of Anthony Hopkins, Ripley is simply Malkovich. Good old Johnny stalks through the film with an air of slight annoyance at having to do anything remotely vigorous while all the time hinting at the raging killer beneath the surface. The simple repetition of the word 'meaning?' at one point firmly extinguishes any memory of Matt Damon's annoying mummy's boy.

He's a joy to watch, with a performance both hilarious and scary. Trust me, you haven't seen anything until you've seen him deliver the line "Hold my watch. If it breaks I'll kill everyone on this train."

Compared to him, no one else really makes an impression. Winstone does manage to hold his own as the vulgar Saunders, but pity Dougray Scott. Granted, his part is unconvincingly written, but he switches from squeamish family man to sudden killer and back again so suddenly, he loses all credibility.

I was ready to grant it a cautious four stars, but unfortunately then the climax arrived. What had been an entertaining, if colourless, thriller degenerated into an 'Unlawful Entry in Provence' effort. A shame, as it's as subtle as a sledgehammer and not suited to Ripley at all. And ultimately there's frustating little insight into what makes Ripley tick. Maybe that unanswered question is what makes him so intriguing for directors and actors alike.

Maybe there'll never be a movie to fully capture or explain the allure of Ripley and why we keep coing back to him. He'll probably never threaten Hannibal as our favourite psycho, although Malkovich does now give him an actor we can fully identify him with. And while 'Ripley's Game' is a film you could happily wait for to arrive on video, it's diverting and suspenseful enough to be a different choice you should make. It's by far the best Ripley film we've had yet. Just mind the bear-traps in the kitchen.

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originally posted: 07/26/03 00:06:49
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User Comments

2/09/10 Craig D. Decent. Third best Ripley film. Not better than Purple Noon or The American Friend. 3 stars
12/19/06 Charles Tatum Certainly better than "The American Friend" 4 stars
6/03/05 Indrid Cold Somehow the plot doesn't do Ripley/Malkovich justice. 4 stars
11/24/04 Steve Newman Very enjoyable. A clever story but not well acted by the assassin 3 stars
5/25/04 Phoebe Garland Great Film John Malkovich is brilliant much better than the first one 5 stars
4/05/04 Jim Van Sant Superior craftsmanship, nuanced, disarmingly sophisticated writing; should be in theatres. 5 stars
2/29/04 Brian Cough Good thriller spoilt by poor supporting acting, no wonder it went straight to video 2 stars
9/26/03 MAria isn't Ripley living in Italy???on a place near Milano and Vicenza?Malcovich is the movie 4 stars
9/06/03 Dimitri Aubert Confused story, actors not at their best. 3 stars
6/28/03 ruth flaherty great thriller, malkovich perfect as Ripley, lovely Italian location. Was that Asolo? 5 stars
5/09/03 rik interesting movie 4 stars
4/28/03 Matthew Smith Malkovich was born to play Tom Ripley and does it superbly 4 stars
4/22/03 John Bale Sophisticated classy thriller, Malkovitch at home as the laconic sinister Ripley. 4 stars
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  N/A (R)
  DVD: 30-Mar-2004



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