RIPLEY'S GAME

Directed by Liliana Cavani. 2002.


Talking Pictures alias talkingpix.co.uk
 
 


 
 

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In Ripley's Game, the latest screen adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's series of novels, John Malkovich plays Tom Ripley, the bisexual art connoisseur whose game is manipulation of people for his own ends. The film directed by 70-year old Liliana Cavani, is entertaining but lacks the probing subtlety of Wim Wenders' The American Friend, a 1979 Ripley adaptation. Ripley is an unscrupulous art dealer and also a cold-blooded killer. He is cerebral, wealthy, charming, talented, and entirely without principle with something clever to say about everything, even murder. "The most interesting thing", he says, "about doing something terrible is often, in a few days, you can't even remember it." Ripley justifies his acts by saying that they rid the world of useless predators. Malkovich's performance keeps the film afloat, though his smug, sinister persona often borders on camp and Dougray Scott is unconvincing as picture framer Jonathan Trevanny.

Ripley's Game takes place about twenty years after Anthony Minghella's The Talented Mr. Ripley leaves off. Ripley (Malkovich) has married into wealth and now resides in a luxurious Italian villa with his wife Luisa (Chiara Caselli), a professional harpsichord player. When an old crony, Reeves (Ray Winstone) asks him for help in dealing with Berlin mobsters threatening his business, Ripley thinks of a local art restorer and picture framer, Jonathan Trevanny (Scott) who is known to be dying of leukemia. Trevanny is a good candidate in Ripley's mind because he recently insulted him at a party by blurting out "That's the trouble with Ripley-too much money and no taste." Ripley's interest, however, is mostly in the pleasure involved of seeing a mild family man turned into a cold-blooded assassin, no matter how implausible the scenario might be. Trevanny falls for the bait and collects $100,000 to kill a Russian at the zoo. 

As one hit deserves another, a second more dangerous plot is hatched to take place on a crowded train but Ripley has to come to Trevanny's rescue when too many bad guys show up. Afterwards, events begin spiraling out of control forcing the picture framer to hide the truth from his wife Sarah (Lena Headley). Though Malkovich fits into the role perfectly, Scott's performance provides little insight into what led a decent family man to become a paid killer. The ending, which could have been suspenseful, is simply unpleasant as the body count escalates. Though beautifully photographed and filled with dark humour, there is little at stake in Ripley's Game and the entire project feels unimportant as reflected in the studio's decision to bypass a theatrical release and send it straight to DVD.

Howard Schumann
 
 
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