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Mr. Ripley emerges from retirement to preside over one last deadly game, but can he persuade an innocent man to commit murder?
The slippery protagonist of The Talented Mr. Ripley returns in another deadly guise in Ripley's Game, a well-appointed star vehicle. The star this time is John Malkovich, whose older Tom Ripley has settled into an Italian villa and a life of aesthetic contemplation (a little like Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal). A former partner (Ray Winstone) drags an innocent frame-maker (Dougray Scott), dying of leukemia, into the role of unexpected hit man. Ripley, for his own enigmatic reasons, helps. Liliana Cavani, of The Night Porter notoriety, directed this handsome if nebulous film (which has no connection to the Matt Damon picture, other than a Patricia Highsmith source novel). Malkovich exudes his usual oily disenchantment with the world; Lena Headey, like the location footage, is gorgeous. The same novel was adapted in very different style by Wim Wenders for his brilliant 1977 film, The American Friend, with Dennis Hopper and Bruno Ganz. --Robert Horton
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Here we know what motivates all the characters and why they do what they do, not so in The American Friend, where their actions have no apparent reason and is just a surprise.
The plot is quite well-done, simple but engrossing, nothing torturous here. In fact, one can take in the movie without paying any attention to the central capers whatsoever -- there's so much to enjoy all the way through. Besides the suave JM, we have Ray Winstone (always solid) and the girl from "My Own Private Idaho" to charm us from start to finish. Nothing too violent (by 2012 standards), nothing disgusting, plenty of lush European scenery/atmosphere, even some fine classical music. In short, one of my Top 100 movies easily -- perhaps Top 40.
In the movie Ripley's home is far too elaborate, too much like a palace rather than a country villa. A picture framer, Jonathan Trevanny, makes scurrilous remarks about Tom, and Tom decides to get back at him by setting him up through Reeves as an assassin. Trevanny goes along with the crime because he's dying of cancer and wants to take care of his wife and son after his death.
In the movie Tom's wife, Heloise, is his enabler as she is in four books of the series, but he didn't let in her in on his nefarious schemes the way he does in the movie.
The killing scene in the zoo in which Trevanny kills a Russian mob boss is very effective. The picture framer gets talked into a second killing, this time on a train, and Ripley, cool and brutal, true psychopath that he is, turns up to help him. The most powerful scene in the movie: multiple murders in a WC.
Ripley says, "I'm a creation, a gifted improviser. I don't have a conscience."
In the last part of the movie the mob bodyguards come after Ripley and Jonathan at Ripley's mansion, and the movie stays close to the book's plot.
Judging it as a movie apart from a novel adaptation, it is extremely effective with a brilliant conclusion in which Malkovich at his wife's harpsichord concert proves by his silences what a fine actor he is.
Dennis Hopper starred in "The American Friend," another version of this novel.
The American Friend