Ripley’s Game (2002)

Featuring two superb performances by two supremely gifted actors, Ripley’s Game, offers John Malkovich the complex and challenging role that showcases his range and skills best. As Tom Ripley, he moves throughout the underworld as both a professional hit man and art fence at the highest levels. His skills and coolness leave him virtually untouched and his plentiful successes allow him all the trappings of wealth the finest connoisseur of art can indulge. Opposite is Reeves (Ray Winstone,) a mob boss with whom Ripley has done business and from whom he has attempted to divorce himself. Reeves, however, has different ideas. Into this mix is thrown the dying Jonathan Trevanny, played by the gifted Dougray Scott, a man dying of advanced cancer and whose beautiful wife (the lovely Lena Headey) Ripley develops some fascination. Trevanny inadvertently insults Ripley and the skillful con begins to incorporate him into his “game”, a game in which he intends to resolve more than one issue. Not long and things begin to go wrong, with surprising results. Both Ripley and Trevanny are about to discover respect and admiration where they least expected it. The demands of their two roles to establish credibility for the amazing turn of events upon these actors is great and met grandly.

Both adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s novel and directed by Liliana Cavani, Ripley’s Game is crafted beautifully. The multiple European settings are authentic and colorful, even a restored 17th century harpsichord is real. A concert theater built over an actual Roman amphitheater  is a wonderful delight and the dulcet tones of a 17th century master’s instrument played there actual. The sets offer their own haunting imagery to the compelling storyline in most fascinating ways.

Supporting roles are well casted, scenes are filmed amazingly well, and the dialog is constantly engrossing. The undertones of Ripley’s comments, spoken low in the way typical to Malkovich, are always rich with intense meaning. His lines are throughout penetrating, always reflecting each time, a little more dimension to his character. Speaking of his parents, in the same tones one would of with causal happenstance, “I waited for them a long time; they didn’t come; they drowned.”

Before it is over, Ripley and Trevanny have become something unexpected to each other, a form of mutual redemption. One, proof to himself he still as a conscience; the other, proof to himself that, though dying, he is still an adequate male. Pay close attention, you will be rewarded.

Intimate love scenes, partial nudity, intense violence. Real, in other words. But a grand movie and highly recommended.

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