In the Cut (film)

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In the Cut
In the cut.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed byJane Campion
Screenplay by
Based onIn the Cut
by Susanna Moore
Produced by
CinematographyDion Beebe
Edited byAlexandre de Franceschi
Music byHilmar Örn Hilmarsson
Distributed by
Release dates
  • October 22, 2003 (2003-10-22) (limited)
  • October 31, 2003 (2003-10-31) (wide)
Running time
119 minutes
CountriesUnited States
United Kingdom[2]
Budget$12 million[3]
Box office$23.7 million[4]

In the Cut is a 2003 psychological thriller film written and directed by Jane Campion and starring Meg Ryan, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Kevin Bacon. Campion's screenplay is an adaptation of the 1995 novel of the same name by Susanna Moore. The film focuses on an English teacher who becomes personally entangled with a detective investigating a series of gruesome murders in her Manhattan neighborhood.

The film received a limited release on October 22, 2003, in the United States, and was subsequently given a wide release on Halloween that year in the United States and United Kingdom. The film received mixed reviews from critics upon release. Negative reviews were critical of the story and narrative structure,[5] while positive reviews praised the acting and Campion's visuals.[6]

In recent years, the film has undergone a reappraisal for its subversion of the male gaze and other common movie tropes.[7][8][9]


Frannie Avery, an introverted writer and English teacher in New York City, meets one of her students, Cornelius, at a local pub to talk about coursework. Cornelius proposes a theory that John Wayne Gacy may not have been guilty of his crimes, later suggesting that 'desire' was responsible. On her way to the basement bathroom, she witnesses a woman performing oral sex on a man. Though it's dark, she can see a 3 of spades tattoo on the man's wrist and the woman's blue fingernails.

Periodically, Frannie reads poems on subway posters that seem to have bearing on her own life.

Several days later, Detective Giovanni Malloy questions Frannie as he investigates the gruesome murder of a young woman whose severed limb was found in Frannie's garden. Frannie is alternately thrilled and frightened by the detective's sexual aggressiveness, even as she grows disillusioned with the sexist attitudes and crude behavior of other men, including the detective's partner, Richard Rodriguez, who can no longer carry a gun because he tried to kill his wife. Frannie questions Malloy about his 3 of spades tattoo, which he says identifies him as a member of a secret club. While walking home from a bar, she is assaulted by a masked stranger. She phones Malloy, and the two have passionate sex. She realizes a charm is missing from her bracelet.

The next day, Frannie describes the sexual encounter to her free-spirited half-sister, Pauline, who lives above a strip club. After Malloy tells Frannie that she and the murder victim were in the same bar the night of the murder, she begins to suspect that Malloy may be the killer. A second victim is found dismembered in a washing machine at a school laundry. Frannie accompanies Malloy to a secluded spot along a river, where he teaches her to use a gun. Meanwhile, Cornelius has been taken in for police questioning on suspicion of the murders because his term paper on John Wayne Gacy is illustrated with blood.

Frannie is confronted by her former boyfriend, John, who tells her he has been having panic attacks. She goes to Pauline's apartment, which she finds unlocked and in disarray. In the bathroom, she finds Pauline's severed head in a plastic bag. After being questioned by Malloy, Frannie gets drunk in her apartment. Cornelius arrives and attempts to rape her, but is interrupted by Detective Rodriguez. Later, Malloy reveals that the killer's 'signature' is leaving a ring on the finger of his victims. Frannie handcuffs him to a pipe, and they have sex. After discovering that Malloy has her missing charm and a key to Pauline's apartment, she confronts him about his tattoo and suggests that he is the serial killer. She takes Malloy's jacket and gun, leaving him handcuffed, and is met by Rodriguez outside. He persuades her to get into his unmarked police car.

Rodriguez drives Frannie to the Little Red Lighthouse below the George Washington Bridge. She tells him that it reminds her of a book she teaches, To the Lighthouse. Frannie notices Rodriguez has the same tattoo as Malloy. Rodriguez presents a ring on the end of a knife and asks Frannie to marry him. Realizing that Rodriguez is the killer, Frannie shoots him with Malloy's gun. He attempts to strangle her, but she fires the gun again, killing him. Bloodied, she walks back to her apartment and lies down with Malloy, who is still cuffed to the pipe where she left him.



Laurie Parker and Jane Campion spent five years developing the film.[10] Nicole Kidman got a producer credit because she was originally cast as Frannie, but dropped out because she was getting a divorce and needed more time with her children.[10] This film was executive produced by Effie T. Brown,[11] in association with Sony Screen Gems and Pathé International.

Box office[edit]

In the Cut grossed $1,666,830 at the box office in Australia.[12]

The total worldwide gross of In the Cut was $23,726,793.[4]



On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a score of 33% based on reviews from 174 critics and an average rating of 4.86/10; the consensus reads: "Jane Campion takes a stab at subverting the psycho-sexual thriller genre with In the Cut, but gets tangled in her own abstraction."[13] On Metacritic the film has a score of 46 out of 100 based on reviews from 38 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[14] CinemaScore gave it a rating of "F" based on surveys from general audiences.[15]

Todd McCarthy of Variety wrote: "Beautifully crafted and highlighted by an arresting change-of-pace [performance] by Meg Ryan as an English teacher erotically awakened by a homicide detective. But the story's unpalatable narrative holes and dramatic missteps will hold sway over the pic's better qualities."[16] Noel Murray of The A.V. Club wrote: "Though the oppressive artiness makes the early scenes fairly ridiculous, the director's odd methods add rare tension to the climax, as it becomes evident that the finale won't be so predictable in Campion's hands."[17]

In a positive review for the Los Angeles Times, Manohla Dargis wrote “the film is filled with surreal, hothouse flourishes that tell the story as vividly and often more eloquently than either the plot mechanics or dialogue”, adding that it “may be the most maddening and imperfect great movie of the year”.[6] Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle said although In the Cut “falls short of the masterpiece Campion intended, it's unquestionably the most ambitious and important film to come along in months”.[18]

Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post wrote although the film was flawed as a thriller,

it's not such a write-off as a psychosexual portrait of a certain kind of single Manhattan woman at the turn of the new century. With its restless, jittery camera, the movie captures the jangly paranoia of a city that is often equally tantalizing and threatening; Frannie responds in kind, with her own contradictory sexual persona, which at certain times is defiantly autonomous and at others almost timidly girlish. A Looking for Mr. Goodbar for the post-9/11 age (the remnants of that tragedy form one of the movie's many visual leitmotifs), In the Cut focuses on the darker face of the classic New York romance. It's a face that's grimly credible, if seldom seen. Within an otherwise flawed, forgettable movie, Campion has managed to offer a vivid, if fleeting, glimpse of the wariness, self-deception and fear that shadow so many illicit thrills of sex in the city.[5]

Hornaday also singled out Ruffalo's performance, writing the actor is “unsettlingly convincing as a man whose sexual magnetism lies not in leading-man good looks but in his ability to portray himself as both a protector and, if the situation warrants, a predator”.[5]

In the Cut was among the films discussed favorably by Slavoj Žižek in The Pervert's Guide to Cinema (2006).[19]


In the years since In the Cut's original release, the film has been reexamined and praised as a feminist erotic thriller. Critics noted how Campion foregrounds female agency and pleasure, and subverts many tropes of the genre such as the femme fatale archetype and the male gaze.[20][8][21] Writing for Thrillist, Jourdain Searles said the film is

a story about women being hunted, from their vantage point for once. Shots depicting Frannie being watched mainly serve to highlight how women have to navigate the world under the gaze of men. Frannie is always looking over her shoulder, constantly assessing her surroundings. She knows she is being watched, yet continues to pursue pleasure on her own terms. In the end, once Frannie has faced her worst fears, In the Cut rewards that bravery.[22]

The film is also a deconstruction of fantasies of romance,[8] particularly the idealization of marriage.[21] Writing for Fangoria, Zach Vasquez said the film succeeds at both combining "the lurid aesthetic of Bava/Argento with a modern examination of violent patriarchal power dynamics",[9] citing Campion's "use of speed ramping, slow motion, lens flares, and more".[9] Nick James placed In the Cut at No. 3 in Sight & Sound's list of twenty-first century noir films, writing "it’s the way that Campion, in scene after scene, juxtaposes powerful female desire with vulnerability that makes In the Cut a unique noir".[23] Film critic David Thomson has also called the film a masterpiece,[24] and, in his book Moments That Made the Movies, hails it as "one of the great films of the twenty-first century."[25]


  1. ^ "In The Cut (2003)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved January 21, 2023.
  2. ^ "In the Cut". bfi. Retrieved October 10, 2022.
  3. ^ "In the Cut (2003) - Financial Information". The Numbers.
  4. ^ a b "In the Cut". Box Office Mojo.
  5. ^ a b c Hornaday, Ann (October 31, 2003). "'In the Cut': Provocatively Predictable". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 3, 2021.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ a b Dargis, Manohla (October 22, 2003). "Hot and cold". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 3, 2021.
  7. ^ Smith, Justine (April 30, 2018). "Re-examining the challenging eroticism of In the Cut". Little White Lies. Retrieved December 3, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. ^ a b c Richard, David Evan (September 2017). "In the Cut (Jane Campion, 2003)". Senses of Cinema. Retrieved December 3, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ a b c Vasquez, Zach (November 17, 2021). "IN THE CUT: A Secret American Giallo Masterpiece". Fangoria. Retrieved December 3, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  10. ^ a b Dargis, Manohla (October 26, 2003). "She's happily unruly". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 3, 2021.
  11. ^ "Effie T. Brown - Film Independent". Film Independent. Retrieved January 19, 2018.
  12. ^ "Film Victoria - Australian Films at the Australian Box Office" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 18, 2011. Retrieved November 21, 2010.
  13. ^ "In the Cut". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved February 1, 2020.
  14. ^ "In the Cut Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved March 10, 2020.
  15. ^ Dowd, A. A.; Rife, Katie (April 3, 2020). "Is an "F" from CinemaScore Actually a Good Thing? Our Critics Weigh In". The A.V. Club. Retrieved April 3, 2020.
  16. ^ McCarthy, Todd (September 9, 2003). "In the Cut". Variety.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  17. ^ Noel Murray (2003). "In The Cut". The A.V. Club. The Onion.
  18. ^ LaSalle, Mick (October 31, 2003). "Sordid sex in the city, mixed with plenty of ennui, make for potent cocktail". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved December 3, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  19. ^ Gottlieb, Akiva (August 24, 2011). "Shelf Life: Jane Campion reconsidered". The Nation. Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  20. ^ Kim, Kristen Yoonsoo (February 5, 2018). "Meg Ryan Once Starred in an Erotic Thriller Made for and by Women". Vice. Retrieved December 6, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  21. ^ a b Roarty, Margaret (November 13, 2020). "'In the Cut' and How Marriage Can Kill You, Actually". The Film Magazine. Retrieved December 6, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  22. ^ Searles, Jourdain (January 9, 2019). "Meg Ryan's 'In the Cut' Is the Most Underrated Erotic Thriller of the 21st Century". Thrillist. Retrieved December 6, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  23. ^ James, Nick (November 27, 2020). "Twenty-first century noir". Sight & Sound. Retrieved December 6, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  24. ^ Schwarzbaum, Lisa (December 6, 2013). "David Thomson's 'Moments That Made the Movies'". The New York Times. Retrieved January 6, 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  25. ^ Thomson, David (2014). Moments That Made the Movies. Thames & Hudson. p. 277. ISBN 978-0500516416.

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