User Rating: Very Good
Pros:scenery, soundtrack, John Malkovich
Cons:miscast Dougray Scott, Patricia Highsmith's original premise
The Bottom Line: Not boring, but hard to believe
Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.
Recommend this product?
Liliana Cavani's (2002) adaptation of Ripley's Game isn't dull. Its plausibility problem stems from original author Patricia Highsmith's conception of entrapping an ordinary, decent, fatally ill man to act as a hit man to provide for his wife and young son after his death. Wim Wenders's version (The American Friend) managed to get over this obstacle, but the fetching but somnambulistic Dougray Scott does not convince me. I can understand that there is an advantage in having a killer with no obvious motive, but it's hard to believe a long-term survivor gangster such as Reeves (Ray Winstone, playing another Cockney gangster) would assent to hiring a wholly inexperienced and obviously inept amateur for a job in which failure would be fatal for the gangster.
As an aging, amoral, and very self-satisfied grandee Tom Ripley (moved from France to northern Italy and played by John Malkovich) is notably restrained. There's something of a man waning to toy with others' lives and see what happens (as in "Dangerous Liaisons") and of a resourceful, cold-blooded killer (as in "In the Line of Fire"). He has a beautiful young wife or whatever (Evelina Meghnagi) and a large, restored Palladian villa to protect, but his wealth rests on past association with unsavory operators like Reeves . The sordid past invades the present when Reeves shows up asking Tom to kill a Russian gang lord in Berlin.
I think that making Jonathan, the chosen assassin, another Anglophone expatriate (English or Scottich, in contrast to the American Tom Ripley) was a major mistake. Joanathan should be more completely integrated into the local society than Ripley to make his being wrenched out to commit murders in Germany (Berlin here, rather than Hamburg as in Highsmith's novel and Wender's movie) more dramatic. Also, his shop and home are too spacious and well-appointed for a character who is supposed to be barely getting by. (Homoeroticism has also been banished, though that was stronger in Highsmith's first Ripley novel than in the sequel(s).)
There is a lot of plot, some very graphic violence, quite a lot of black humor, beautiful travelogue-like photography of the Italian countryside, Berlin locales, and, in the finale, of a Palladian theater by expert cinematographer Alfio Contini (who shot) "The Night Porter" for Cavani back in 1974).
Updating to an era of cellphones and Russian gangs warring with Ukranian ones worked fine. And Ennio Morricone provides an interesting score. It is sometimes obtrusive, but not distracting.
The movie is not boring, but is also not very involvingprimarily, I think, because it's hard to care what happens to Dougray Scott's Jonathan and hard to accept the premise that a tough gangster would go along with Tom Ripley's whim to entrap and degrade Jonathan.
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age