Combustible Celluloid
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With: Ray Winstone, John Malkovich, Dougray Scott, Uwe Mansshardt, Hanns Zischler, Paolo Paoloni
Written by: Liliana Cavani, Charles McKeown, based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith
Directed by: Liliana Cavani
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and language, some sexuality
Running Time: 110
Date: 09/02/2002

Ripley's Game (2002)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)


By Jeffrey M. Anderson

For some reason, this 2002 film never secured a theatrical release,though it certainly deserved one. It's one of the best films I've seenbased on a Patricia Highsmith book.

Some of the previous Ripley films succumbed to the idea that Ripley must be young and handsome as well as charming. Matt Damon didn't seem quite right in The Talented Mr. Ripley and Dennis Hopper seemed vaguely stoned in The American Friend, while Alain Delon was only serviceable in Purple Noon.

Now, however, we have the real Ripley: John Malkovich. Snaky, smooth, elegant and charming, this Ripley can kill a man and then stop to admire an expensive statue before making his getaway. We believe that he would have landed an exquisitely beautiful wife, and we admire the way he handles a public insult at a party -- walking away, of course, with the upper hand. The other Ripleys wouldn't stand a chance against him.

The story involves Ripley's next door neighbor Jonathan Trevanny (Dougray Scott), an art framer who is slowly dying of leukemia. He's the poor misguided soul who accidentally insulted Ripley's taste without knowing that the latter was in the room. Therefore, when Ripley's uncivilized former partner Reeves (Ray Winstone) comes to Ripley about an assassination, Ripley suggests Jonathan, partially because of the insult but partially because he has nothing to lose and everything to gain.

The remarkable climax concerns Ripley and Jonathan, filled with newfound respect for each other, battling it out in a siege at Ripley's gigantic house.

Veteran director Liliana Cavani (The Night Porter) gives the film an elegant, European feel, dripping the crime elements into the background as if they belong there with the cobblestones. The great Ennio Morricone provides the score, and Malkovich serves as co-producer.

DVD Details: Few extras except -- ironically -- a theatrical trailer. Bonus trailers include Laws of Attraction, Dinner Rush, About Schmidt and Secondhand Lions. DVD-Rom features as they are unavailable to Mac users.

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