Ripley's Game (2002) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

If you were ever acquainted with the basic facts about this film, you're probably wondering whatever happened to it. It seemed to have a lot going for it.

  • It is based on one of the popular Patricia Highsmith novels about the charming, sophisticated psychopath Tom Ripley, of which there are five: The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Boy Who Followed Ripley, Ripley Under Ground, Ripley Under Water, and Ripley's Game.

  • The Talented Mr Ripley, a story about the con artist as a young man, was a successful recent film starring Matt Damon, so there was some pre-established interest in the character, and John Malkovich seemed an appropriate choice to play an older, more jaded Ripley.

  • Liliana Cavani was brought in to direct, and she seemed to be a great choice to portray the Italian life of high style in which the mature Ripley chose to live.

  • The basic plot is interesting. Ripley overhears his neighbor insulting him and, in response to that disrespect, our favorite psycho concocts an elaborate scheme of revenge that gets the guy in trouble with the Russian and Ukrainian mobs in Berlin. Then something unexpected happens. Ripley develops a conscience at that very late stage in life, and decides that he has to bail the poor schmuck out of the mess he got him into, so he ends up in Germany battling the mobsters, and eventually forging a bond with the man who had insulted him.

  • There are some great scenes. The scene in which Ripley and his neighbor kill three gigantic mobsters, one at a time of course, in the men's room on a German train is both funny and taut.

  • Some of the Italian outdoor locales are absolutely lush, and the interiors are absolutely spectacular. Hats off to the person who came up with the locales.

  • The film also features some yeoman's work from two screen veterans, cinematographer Alfio Contini, and the legendary composer Ennio Morricone.

  • In addition to Malkovich, the remaining cast is also appropriate. Dougray Scott is solid as Ripley's victim-turned-ally. Ray Winstone is on hand to play one of his usual roles as an overstuffed small-time mob boss who shows more depth than one normally expects from a screen gangster. Winstone is kind of establishing himself as kind of a Tony Soprano with a working class British accent, and he's pretty damned good at it.

With so many solid elements, what went so wrong that this film went straight-to-video in North America, despite having cost $30 million to produce?


None: there is an upskirt of Chiara Caselli, but I don't know what it reveals.

I'm not sure I can answer that question.

I thought it was a good movie.

Some possible explanations:

  • I have read that Cavani seemed to have no understanding of how to make a thriller, and that Malkovich (uncredited) ended up taking over the direction and post-production.
  • When they finally got an theatrical edit together, it bombed royally in European box offices, and I'm guessing that the American distributors figured that a slow-paced, thoughtful, highly visual movie which failed in Europe had absolutely no prayer in America. I suppose they were probably right.
  • The "hero" of the film has the personality of Hannibal Lecter and the voice of John Malkovich, which doesn't exactly spell summer popcorn blockbuster.
  • Finally, it didn't get great reviews in the U.K., so there was no reason to attempt marketing it as a prestige picture.

DVD info from Amazon

  • no meaningful features, but a spectacularly beautiful widescreen anamorphic DVD transfer of the film.

That's all just my speculation.

At any rate, I found the film very satisfactory, and you may do the same if you can handle a thriller with more suggestion than actual action, and some rather complex character development.

The Critics Vote ...

  • General UK consensus: two and a half stars. Mail 6/10, Independent 4/10, Guardian 4/10, Times 6/10, Sun 7/10, Express 6/10, Mirror 8/10, BBC 3/5

The People Vote ...

  • Box office: It bombed miserably in Europe, and was never released theatrically in North America.
The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

My own guideline: A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre. B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. C means it will only appeal to genre addicts, and has no crossover appeal. (C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by genre fans, while C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie although genre addicts find it watchable). D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre. F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-.

Based on this description, this is a C+. It is a good film, just not a film that the distributors could count on for a profit.

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