Ripley's Game


          RIPLEY'S GAME is an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's novel dealing
  with the more mature Tom Ripley, As the film opens, Ripley (embodied by
  John Malkovich) is situated in Berlin and working as an art dealer, passing
  off forgeries for cash. He's in partnership with Reeves (Ray Winstone), a
  rather dim-witted associate who manages to screw up deals. Indeed, in
  the first scene, the planned exchange of faux drawings for cash goes
  awry and results in the first of a rather large body count. Because this
  deal turned sour, Ripley leaves Berlin.

          Three years pass and he's now ensconced in an Italian villa with
  his female musician lover (Chiara Caselli). Of course, Reeves shows up
  one day to spoil Ripley's Edenic existence.

          Reeves has come with a request for Ripley to kill rival Russian
  nightclub owners in Berlin. Ripley refuses, but he does suggest an
  alternative -- his neighbor Jonathan Trevanny (Dougray Scott), a picture
  framer who has recently been diagnosed with myeloid leukemia, and more
  importantly, a man who insulted Ripley at a party.

          The thinking is that since Trevanny is dying, he has nothing to lose.
  An infusion of quick cash will help his wife and young son after his death.
  Trevanny waivers, but is coerced into doing the job.

          When Reeves proposes additional "hits", things get more complicated.
  Ripley has decided that the game is over and Trevanny should be left
  alone, but Reeves doesn't agree and ... Well, I don't want to spoil the
  rest of the film.

          Director Liliana Cavani (who is perhaps best-known for the 1975
  drama
THE NIGHT PORTER) handles the material with aplomb. Still,
  there's something curiously lacking ... partly because the amoral Ripley
  is not really the focus of the plot. This may in part be the fault of
  Malkovich's performance. It owes a debt to his turn as the serpentine
  Valmont in
DANGEROUS LIAISONS (a performance that I was less
  than impressed with, I might note). There are hints of the complexity
  of Ripley's character but the script and direction don't really bring them
  to the forefront.

          Winstone is typecast as a blustery criminal, a part he handled
  to better effect in
SEXY BEAST. Scott makes for a sympathetic figure,
  and one can feel his character being torn by his conscience and by his
  desire to provide for his family. Lena Headey does a nice job as
  Scott's increasingly suspicious wife, but Chiara Caselli is wasted as
  the woman in Ripley's life.

          
RIPLEY'S GAME isn't a disaster, nor is it on par with Anthony
  Minghella's adaptation
THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY either. While it
  has been years since I saw Wim Wenders' version of the same novel,
  
THE AMERICAN FRIEND (1977), I seem to remember it being even
  less successful in turning Highsmith's book into an engrossing and
  enjoyable movie.


          The biggest problem with this story and both films (which stands at
  the half-way mark of the five Ripley novels published by Highsmith) is
  that Tom Ripley plays such a small role in the proceedings.


                          Rating:                 B-
                          Running time:       110 mins.
                          MPAA Rating:        R for strong violence and language
                                                          and some sexuality
© 2005 by C.E. Murphy. All Right Reserved.