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New Line Home Cinema presents
Ripley's Game (2002)

"I don't worry about being caught, because I don't believe anyone is watching."
- Tom Ripley (John Malkovich)

Review By: Jon Danziger   
Published: March 29, 2004

Stars: John Malkovich, Dougray Scott
Director: Liliana Cavani

MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and language, some sexuality
Run Time: 01h:50m:20s
Release Date: March 30, 2004
UPC: 794043695421
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- C-B+B+ D

DVD Review

Believe it or not, Tom Ripley was a character on the page and the screen long before and well after Matt Damon came along. The years may have been kind to Mr. Ripley, but I'm sorry to report that this story doesn't hold up its end of the bargain. Some of it is stylish and beautiful—shooting on location in Italy will do that—but if you're familiar with the Ripley character, or even if you aren't, this is a movie that makes very little sense.

Our Tom has pushed on to middle age and contemporary times—he's fabulously wealthy, living in a glorious, restored Italian manor with his beautiful wife, a virtuoso harpsichordist. He's dismissed by some of the neighbors as a vulgarian, an ugly American ("That's the trouble with Ripley: too much money and no taste"), but, a few snide comments aside, he's living high on the hog, with more fastidiousness than Dickie Greenleaf ever would have dreamed of. A bit of his past comes back, in the form of a stout English fellow called Reeves (Ray Winstone), who wants Tom to do a job for him—but murder for hire no longer seems to be in the Ripley repertoire. Perhaps, then, Ripley will help Reeves find a suitable alternative?

The best available local option turns out to be Jonathan (Dougray Scott), a picture framer with a beautiful wife of his own, also a son, and, not incidentally, leukemia. The challenge to Ripley is to turn this otherwise mild-mannered, mortally ill man into a contract killer, to put a few extra thousand quid in the bank for the day, coming all too soon, when he'll no longer be around to provide.

So that's the setup right there, and with it you can probably see many of the problems. The movie lives up to neither word in its title—it doesn't in fact have all that much to do with Ripley, as Jonathan is the focus; and there really isn't much of a game being played. So what is there, then? Well, with one exception, there's lots of bad, earnest emoting passing for acting—I don't know how director Liliana Cavani's English is, but she's certainly let her actors run riot. The exception is of course John Malkovich, who seems to be having a slitheringly good time in the title role—everybody else is a bit glum, but he seems to have a good old time giving a stereotypically Malkovich performance. What it must be like being him. Also, Ripley and Jonathan team up for a ludicrous final shootout, as a sort of high end, Mediterranean Butch and Sundance.

It's an old question: is an ordinary man capable of crime and violence under extraordinary circumstances? But it's not even really addressed here, in a movie that's briskly paced, but frequently seems very, very silly. It's hard not to make unflattering comparisons between this film and Anthony Minghella's version of the first novel featuring this character, The Talented Mr. Ripley; or even with Purple Noon, the previous filmed version of that same novel. And when Ripley and Jonathan are stalking victims from railroad car to railroad car, it calls to mind what's probably the best film based on a Highsmith novel: Alfred Hitchcock's Strangers on a Train. You may find yourself watching Cavani's movie and wondering why you aren't watching Minghella's or Hitch's instead.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.85:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: A lovely, deeply saturated transfer, with only occasional scratches marring it. If only the movie were written as well as it was shot.

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Much of the dialogue is obviously and poorly looped, but each of the three audio tracks have been transferred fairly well. The DTS offering is especially moody and atmospheric, but all three have fine and steady dynamics.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 23 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Laws of Attraction, Dinner Rush, About Schmidt, Secondhand Lions
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. DVD credits
Extras Review: You'll find the DVD credits under the New Line logo on the main menu; the weblinks are to New Line's official site. That and a handful of trailers is all you'll turn up here.

Extras Grade: D


Final Comments

Oh, Mr. Ripley, what big talents you have! (All the better to amuse you with, my dear.) This is a goofy, poorly constructed and assembled attempt at a sort of filmmaking that was never easy to begin with, and the cast and crew here aren't up to the task. Malkovich is in fine fettle, though.


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