Directed by Liliana Cavani, starring John Malkovich, Dougray Scott, Ray Winstone, Lena Headey and Chiarra Caselli.
The talented Mr Ripley, first encountered in Patricia Highsmith’s debut novel, has proved to be just that in his return to the big screen. Talented in that at fortysomething, he is extremely wealthy, retired and living with his beautiful wife in provincial Italy. Ensconced in luxurious surroundings, he is far removed from his dark, criminal past. But a chance encounter at a party piques Ripley (Malkovich) when he hears Jonathan Trevanny (Scott) publicly deride him.
Not a man to trifle with, Ripley decides to exact revenge on Trevanny, who is terminally ill with leukaemia. And no sooner has Ripley set his sights on a vengeful game, than an opportunity to see it through arises. Enter Reeves (Winstone), a former criminal cohort of Ripley’s in search of an unknown assassin to get a Russian crime lord off his back. Ripley immediately suggests Jonathan, a man of meagre income keen to provide for his family after his imminent death.
Trevanny is cornered and convinced by the uncouth Reeves to pull off the hit, only to discover he is obliged to carry out another or his family will die. He almost bungles the second execution - until help arrives from Ripley. But despite his intervention, it’s not enough to keep the Russian mafioso away from their hometown and the film races towards its unexpected conclusion.
Malkovich is well cast as the epicurean who hasn’t lost his cold-blooded touch. His little-seen wife Luisa (Caselli), however, is a puzzling inclusion in the cast and, amid his art and antiques, just another trophy possession. Elsewhere, the perennially enjoyable Ray Winstone seems to have accepted being typecast as the East End thug. Here, it is a role he plays well and with much brio as the not-very-clever gangster.
For all its implausibility, 'Ripley's Game' is not that interesting. There is no doubting Ripley’s adroitness as an amoral killer and thief but is he capable of turning an ordinary family man into a hitman? Similarly, can a devoted father really renege on his lifelong conscience just because he’s dying? Sadly, the film doesn’t really convince us. Trevanny’s transition from pathetic dying man to exhilarated, gun-toting murderer happens a little too smoothly and with break-neck speed with Scott’s performance as the guinea pig is hammy and quite irritating after a while.
With the exception of Malkovich and Winstone, the performances are average, and this Ripley instalment lacks the slick suspense of the original. The plot is nowhere near as sophisticated or well executed; it strains to create tension but only comes off as a mediocre continental thriller.