on 10 February 2004
Although I have read the book on which this film is based, I had heard that this film would have to be good to live up to highly acclaimed Ripley series.
I have been a fan of John Malkovich for a long time, having always admired his enchantingly smooth exterior and unforgettable face. All his attributes contribute flawlessly to give Tom Ripley a haunting and mysterious yet oddly likeable character.
The actual quality of filming is very high indeed, from the beautiful panaormic scenes of Ripley's home and grounds to the dark sinister and claustrophobic atmosphere of the express train.
To my mind this film is a hark back to the days of suspense and sinister film-making (think Hitchcock) which is certainly welcome in my view.
Definately a film to buy and treasure
Ripley's Game is a very different interpretation of Patricia Highsmith's novel to Wim Wenders' The American Friend, but that's not a bad thing: both films can stand on their own merits, existing in very different worlds. Where Wenders' film was more of an underground rock club cover version of the novel, this tends to play up the arid elegance and dry wit, but with superb setpiece sequences like the killing on the train that mixes black comedy, horror and human nature remarkably adroitly, that's an asset rather than a problem. Dougray Scott is as problematic as ever as the art restorer whose casual derogatory remark puts him on Ripley's radar as the perfect fall guy, throwing all the focus onto John Malkovich (who took over direction uncredited when Cavani left before it was finished over a curious 'scheduling conflict'), but he holds the spotlight well in a performance that's so pitch perfect it lifts the film to another level.
Where Dennis Hopper's Ripley had told so many lies he had to constantly remind himself who he used to be, Malkovich's mature Ripley knows exactly who and what he is and, having come to terms with how morally and emotionally hollow he is, has come as close to what passes for contentment for him as he's likely to. You don't have the journey of self-discovery or the layers you get in Anthony Minghella's adaptation of The Talented Mr Ripley, but you do get one of the more convincing movie sociopaths - and one who feels like he's one of those higher beings you occasionally meet in all walks of life, only with better taste. When he talks about taking a human life having no more consequence than one less car on a busy road, it cuts to the sociopathic essence of Ripley. Yet there's a sense that his change of heart - as far as Ripley actually has a heart - may be driven not by empathy but by the loss of those aspects of his own youthful character he recognises in his chosen patsy and ultimately comes as close to mourning as he can. Unfortunately the two men seem so worlds apart that that aspect isn't necessarily apparent if you aren't aware of the events in the earlier novel/film. Certainly a stronger, more empathetic performer in Scott's role would have improved that aspect immensely.
It's also structurally a bit of problem that you're in no real doubt that Ripley will master events as a reluctant favour for a former partner in crime escalates, meaning that what suspense there is comes from his Scott's fate and the mechanics of just how Ripley will dig himself out of his latest hole. And it's those mechanics that are the most intriguing aspects of the film as he initially builds up and destroys the restorer and then tries to undo his own handiwork. Luckily, this Ripley is fascinating enough and witty enough, without ever turning into a mere standup comedian dispensing elegant one-liners, that the film remains surprisingly compelling and constantly engaging.
Thankfully the scars of the troubled production don't show onscreen. It certainly doesn't look like a troubled film, and it's clearly not one of those cases where the replacement director has tried to impose their own very different style on the film (see A Dandy in Aspic and if you're familiar with Anthony Mann's work you'll have no trouble guessing which scenes he directed and which Laurence Harvey did in most cases), with no obvious signs of which scenes Malkovich shot. Although it was quite a big deal at the time, the change in directors seems to have been all-but forgotten, possibly because the film never got a theatrical release Stateside and neither Cavani nor Malkovich seemed to promote the film. You won't find any clues as to who did what behind the scenes in the extras to Entertainment's UK DVD, which are limited to cast and crew soundbites and raw behind the scenes footage.
on 6 September 2008
Odd, off the wall type thriller giving the character of Tom Ripley a much darker makeover than was the case in The Talented Mr Ripley. A darker story too, and one handled well by the director here. Keeping things contained and concerned only with the main plot and its surprises, we see a completely innocent 'victim' of the stone cold Ripley become a darkly competent and enthusiastic contract killer. Scott delivers this effect well, and Winstone jabs in his usual spike of menace as the dodgy small time crimelord who dares to mix with the likes of criminal mastermind, Mr Ripley.
Malkovich is breathtakingly comfortable in the role as art loving, sophisticated master fraudster and killer, Tom Ripley, and makes the movie a joy to watch. One or two scenes are incredibly darkly comic, almost Macabre, as an ice cool, laid back Mr ripley takes on his duties as cold blooded murderer just as casually as a janitor would hoover the hallway and turn off the lights. It makes the movie a memorable one, and I do not care one jot myself, how this hangs with the more celebrated Minghella made movie, or even how well it reflects the books, as this neat and original little thriller is a quiet little cracker of a film, one that gets better with each viewing too. I prefer it to the more famous film and I think it is one of the very best movies of the noughties so far.
I've seen this twice now and the first time I thought it was a good film. The second time its better than 4 stars for me. As a previous reveiwer has pointed out the premise of the story is a little unlikely, but I assume its at least partially based on the book. The author Patricia Highsmith wrote another equally unlikely story which was made into Hitchcocks 'Strangers on a Train'. So if its reality you want perhaps you should look elsewhere.
Malkovich dominates the film. He is just naturally blessed with an odd voice and unique screen presence, and he puts it to very good use in this film, particularly in some of the scenes where a nice line in black comedy occurs, which of course ideally suits Malkovichs laconic delivery. Both Ray Winstone and Dougray Scott provide good support with perhaps Scott being the better of the two. His portrayal of a desperate man dying of cancer, who doesn't realise what hes started when he insults Ripley is a fine piece of acting.
In some ways it reminded me of 'Hannibal' (another under-rated film) which was also set in a European city. If you're unsure rent it, but having seen it twice now I'm quite keen to see it a third time sooner rather than later.
Patricia Highsmith's tour de force of eccentric crime fiction; known to initiates as The Ripliad, makes fertile ground for film-makers, [like The American Friend] with varying results. Having read the entire series of books many years ago, I always felt that casting Matt Damon in the lead role for the first - The Talented Mr Ripley - was a dreadful mistake, being far too unsure and not nearly urbane enough. This latter deficiency doesn't even register with John Malkovich's portrayal of Tom Ripley, which hardly comes as a surpise, considering his darkly presence-filled personality, which is the core feature of Ripley's Game. If anything, Malkovich pushes the scale too far in the opposite direction, the strongest impression that the literary Ripley gives, is one of almost bland ordinariness, a characteristic not found in the film at almost any level. Malkovich's interpretation also suffers somewhat from being possibly too organised, rather than fortuitously bungling, but all these criticisms stem simply from a readers impression [I always imagined Ripley to be like Michael Palin]. This aside, the film itself, is excellent, with some memorable and startling photography, that indefinable Euromovie soul, and plently of louring, misty landscapes, which all add to the slightly oppressive aura of the film itself. Fortunately, the director has steered clear of the horribly inappropriate homo-erotic undertones of the first movie [what was that all about anyway?] and made an honest, classy, if not utterly faithful version of the second Ripley novel. All in all, despite its differences from the written original, this film is a treat and well worth adding to your collection.
on 4 August 2005
For some reason I've never been able to stand John Malkovich. He always imbues his characters with a stuffy, self-importance, and a kind of self-aggrandizement complete with an overblown plumy accent. So I approached Ripley's Game with hesitation; I just wasn't sure if I could even watch it. Well, the good news is that this film version - while admittedly looking more like a made for television movie - is far better than the previous Ripley outing, the tepid Talented Mr. Ripley that starred a "not quite right" Matt Damon.
For some reason, Ripley's Game never got the theatrical release in the US it deserved, although it did do good business in Europe. Admittingly, the film lacks the star wattage of its predecessor, but it certainly makes up for this by finally giving us a "real" Ripley, a Ripley that we can care about, and also an actor who seems to fit the part. Malkovich plays him as a snaky, smooth, elegant and charming middle-aged man, a Machiavellian character who is always in the background deviously pulling the strings.
You can rest assured that this Ripley can kill a man without a moment's hesitation and then stop to admire an expensive statue before making his getaway or even send his girlfriend a beautiful bouquet of red roses. It's not just that this Ripley is a talented murderer - he can also deftly manipulate the innocent and cleverly handle public insults at a party - walking away, of course, with the upper hand.
Having made a fortune ripping off fine art, Ripley is now living the high-life in a stylish Italian manor with a beautiful young pianist for a wife (Chiara Caselli). When Ripley's uncivilized former partner Reeves (Ray Winstone) arrives on the scene three years later and asks Ripley to help him carry out an assassination, Ripley suggests Jonathan Trevanny (a terrific Dougray Scott). Jonathan is a tortured soul who has just found out that he's dying of leukemia. He's also desperately in need of money to support his wife ... and young son.
Jonathan is an innocent, law-abiding sort of guy, and he's initially disgusted with the murderous proposition. But seducing innocent people is Ripley's specialty, so it is not long before Jonathan becomes entangled with an assortment of creepy individuals, including the Russian Mafioso. Obviously, we're disgusted by Ripley, and shocked at how he manages to act as the Devil toward Scott, offering him temptations he can't pass up and slyly looking on at the process of his conscience being eaten away.
The film's best and most exciting sequence is when Jonathan bumps into Ripley on a train and they are forced to use a garrote in the confines of the bathroom. Ripley is slick and smart, but maybe he has he met his nemesis in the uncouth and crude Reeves, who has made it perfectly obvious that he's out for blood. Can Ripley maintain his constant cool and get Jonathan out of the horrifying situation that he's landed himself in?
Italian director-co writer Liliana Cavani frames the story elegantly, making nice use of the settings in both Italy and Berlin, and coaxing understated, shrewd performances out of the cast, particularly Dougray Scott who gives one of his best performances. Although the initial set-up is a little slow, Cavani generally keeps the pacing tight throughout, instilling the proceedings with a gentle stream of black humour and sly wit. The beautiful European locations effortlessly draw us into the events efficiently dressing the action up as though it's art. Murder and mayhem constantly lurks beneath the smooth veneer of money and opulence, the good wine and the classical furniture.
Ripley's Game is certainly not a great movie, but it's one of the best of the series and it's certainly the most exciting. The film is perhaps the only one that has really managed to capture the malevolent psychologically of the complex central character, while also effectively recreating the almost Hitchcockian nature of Patricia Highsmith's original series of books. Mike Leonard August 05.
on 5 January 2004
Well, the follow up to 'The Talented Mr Ripley' was always going to be difficult. This film sees Tom Ripley older, but still deadly. The plotline is very refreshing, and original. John Malkovich plays a refined,educated killer, who's calmness is quite horrific. Ray Winstone's character on the other hand, is brash, loud, and menacing. Malkovich as Ripley has to occasionally use Winstones services. What they do share is a ruthlessness to make money and to have control. This drama has some fantastic moments, and is real edge of the seat stuff. Malkovich is brilliant and his performance really gives the film substance. When Malkovich hires Winstone for a job, the drama really begins, and the twists and turns of this movie make it very pleasing to watch. Winstone's performance is (again) brilliant, he brings his London swagger to the streets of Rome and Berlin, with the usual consequences. With other fine performances from the cast, this film will entertain.
Well worth 5 stars..
on 14 September 2010
In this, his second screen outing, Ripley is played with aplomb by the charmingly sinister John Malkovich with strong support from Messrs Winston and Scott. Ripley is a completely different animal to his previous incarnation in "The talented Mr. Ripley", but then again he would be this being 40 years on. Gone are the homo-erotic tendencies replaced by a character who has grown into his own skin and who has reconciled himself to his true nature.
So what we have is a great leading man playing a great character with a strong supporting cast enacting a compelling story set in some very pleasant locations. What's not to like?
on 6 February 2013
I didn't realize that l had seen this movie, when l ordered it. I must have seen it soon after was released, ten years ago. Then as now l would have viewed it because it's a Patricia Highsmith adaptation. I seem to remember being disappointed with "Ripley's Games", because l thought that l was going to see a sequel to the "Talented Mr Ripley ".
In a sense it is sequel, the plot and the character have moved on and so have l. My partner and l viewed both films over the Xmas holiday and both films had a greater impact than l anticipated they would.
I haven't read book of "Games ", yet, but as with the "Talented" the movies inject a moral dimension , which is in many ways more anarchistic and morally relativist than the books. Ripley is not just an arty psychopath, but a catalyst who provides a disturbing mirror in which our values and perceptions are reflected .As he kills his way through the plot.. It's beautifully shot , constructed and dressed , In some ways it's not a sequel, It's a kind of stand alone to "talented", even though it's made afterwards, and uses Highsmith's characters. But with in both films the directorial influence and the balance of the screenplay produces both a reflective and different take on Highsmith's Ripley. When l first saw it . I wasn't impressed . This time l was, and l can recommend it. Enjoy
on 3 September 2005
One thing to note before watching Ripley's Game is the following; it's not a sequel or follow up to Anthony Minghella's the Talented Mr Ripley. The only similarity they share is essentially the source material which is the books by Patricia Highsmith. Other than that they are two totally unrelated films and should not be compared.
Director Liliana Cavani gives us an intelligent, elegant film, featuring an older Tom Ripley (John Malkovich). He lives in the Italian countryside in a mansion with his female lover (an adaption from the book), a pianist. When insulted by innocent and terminally ill loving husband and father, Jonathan Trevanny (Dougray Scott), Ripley is all to pleased but to help out an old colleage, Reeves (Ray Winstone) in using Trevanny in his place as an assassin.
Ripley's Game, through it's suave, efficient, handsome demeanour, is also emotional. In some ways the film is a journey of empathy for both Ripley and the terminally ill Trevanny. The film is ultimately the corruption of an innocent man but at the same time a deep character study of Tom Ripley and his motives for what he does. It is a film that is open to interpretation and there are many ways to see Ripley's character, a fact which makes the film so good. Once the credits roll and you think about the film, you begin to appreciate the numerous ways of looking at Ripley's game.
The performances are what make the film. Dougray Scott will provoke your sympathy with his character and gives a very human performance, working his emotions very well. John Malkovich, though, is the main tool of the film; without him, Ripley's Game would not be what it is; so in many senses, it is very much Malkovich's film and he will not fail to mesmerise the viewer in his performance of a man who is a total enigma, lacks emotion, kills, deceives people, but is also very likeable. I find it masterful that Malkovich is able to bring such a likeable quality to his character, who is essentially a psycopath ... but a highly intellectual and cultured one.
Aside from the acting, Ripley's Game boasts atmosphere, whether it be tense, sophisticated, or chilling. Adding a rich taste to some of the chilling sequences are classical/vocal pieces, evoking either dark wit or even emotion. It neatly cuts us atmosphere in several forms and puts it on a china plate, just like Ripley would want. It is also a very cultured film; the art, the wine, the medieval, quaint and idyllic Italian town, Ripley's beret and bike ... it even pins that eastern-feel of urban Berlin and the claustrophobia of trains.
Where Ripley's Game falls short, however is, although the script is a strong, moralistic one, full of sharp dialogue, without Malkovich it wouldn't be the same. Ripley's Game only other con is the fact that it could pass for a TV, 9 o'clock thriller/drama. Although it is cinematic, there is something strange that makes it sometimes look like it was filmed for TV.
Intelligent, cultured, enigmatic, moralistic - quite a lot like the character Tom Ripley himself. Although it could pass for a TV drama, it'd still be a damn good one.