Ripley's Game


Directed by: Liliana Cavani
Written by:Liliana Cavani, Charles McKeown
Starring: John Malkovich, Dougray Scott, Ray Winstone, Lena Headey, Chiara Caselli
Released: April 17, 2003
Grade: B+

Don’t be fooled in thinking this film is a cheap sequel to the 1999 release, The Talented Mr. Ripley.  Author Patricia Highsmith wrote five novels involving her most famous fictional character, Tom Ripley, and Ripley’s Game is an adaptation of the third book.  It comes to us from a different production company and is distributed by a different studio so aside from having the same leading character, there is very little similar between the two films.

The older, wiser Tom Ripley now lives happily in a luxurious French mansion.  His wife, Luisa (Caselli), knows much of Tom’s past and seems equally as cunning as her husband.  A face from the past comes to visit Tom and he is known simply as Reeves (Winstone).  After a botched art deal three years earlier, Tom told Reeves never to speak with him ever again.  Still, he’s curious as to what is important enough to have him come to his French doorstep.

It’s a simple job – Reeves needs a man killed.  Tom doesn’t want to help Reeves in any way but sees an opportunity to have a little fun.  One of Tom’s next door neighbours is Jonathan Trevanny (Scott) who has terminal leukaemia and only a few months to live.  He and his wife Sarah (Headey) are struggling to make ends meet and Jonathan is worried that Sarah and their young son won’t have financial stability when he passes on.

Tom suggests to Reeves that Jonathan is the man he should hire for his assignment.  As expected, Jonathan wants no part of the idea but with one hundred thousand pounds being waved in front of his nose, the offer becomes too attractive.  Tom isn’t going to completely wash his hands of this situation – he has done what he has done not to protect himself, but to see what Jonathan is really made of.

Expecting disappointment, due to my love for the The Talented Mr. Ripley, I found there was much to enjoy in Ripley’s Game with John Malkovich’s performance a clear highlight.  He’s ice-cool under pressure and never changes his demeanour.  You know he’s an evil man but the personality gives no immediate indication of who he likes and who he doesn’t.  It’ll keep you on your toes.  Also, the French backdrop is used to maximum effect by Italian director Liliani Cavani.  There are some wonderful scenes on Tom’s estate – the whole setting is rather peaceful.

Getting its release in Australia over the Easter break, the film hasn’t had quite the success expected in the United States.  It was due to be released two weeks ago but pulled at the last minute by the studio for no apparent reason and a “straight to video” release has been tipped.  Also of interest is the latest news that the second book from Highsmith, Ripley Underground, is now to be made into a movie.  Starring Barry Pepper and Tom Wilkinson, expect its release in mid 2004.  The intrigue of Tom Ripley is taking hold.