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
Budget$12 million[1]
Box office$23.7 million[2]

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 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,[3] while positive reviews praised the acting and Campion's visuals.[4]

In recent years and in the wake of the Me Too movement, the film has undergone a reappraisal for its subversion of the male gaze and other common movie tropes.[5][6][7]


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 their coursework. Cornelius propounds a theory that John Wayne Gacy may not have been guilty of his murderous crimes, later suggesting that 'desire' was responsible. During the meeting, she heads to the bathroom in the basement. In the darkened basement hallway, she witnesses a woman performing oral sex on a man. She stands there watching, and though it's dark, can see a 3 of spades tattoo on the man's wrist, and the woman's blue finger nails.

Periodically as she rides the subway, Frannie reads poems that appear on posters in the subway cars, which 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. They flirt despite the grisly nature of their introduction, and meet at the same bar later. Frannie is alternately thrilled and frightened by the detective's sexual aggressiveness, even as she grows more disillusioned with the sexist attitudes and crude behavior of other men, including the detective's partner, Richard Rodriguez. Even as Malloy defends his partner, who can no longer carry a gun because he tried to kill his wife, he promises he will do anything Frannie wants "except beat her up." After questioning his 3 of spades tattoo, which he says identifies him as a member of a secret club, she eventually leaves the bar abruptly. On a dark street, she is assaulted by a masked stranger while walking home. The stranger takes her bag, including her wallet. During her escape, she runs into the path of a taxi, which hits her, knocks her down, and causes superficial injuries. Upon arriving at her apartment, she phones Malloy, asking him to come over. After a while, the two have passionate sex and she is taken aback by his sexual prowess, asking him to tell her about the older woman from whom he must've learned that sexual technique. She realises a charm is missing from her bracelet, and says aloud that maybe it fell off on West Broadway, which was presumably where she was attacked.

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 first victim were in the same bar the night of the murder, and that she might have seen the murderer, she begins to suspect that Malloy may actually be the killer, especially after a second victim is found dismembered in a washing machine at a school laundry. Later, she accompanies Malloy to a woodsy spot along a river, where he scares her by shooting at garbage bags floating on the surface, then tells her she should learn how to shoot. She surprises herself by taking aim and shooting well. Meanwhile, Cornelius has been taken in for police questioning on suspicion of the murders, due to his handing in a term paper on serial killers illustrated in blood.

Upon returning to her apartment, Frannie is confronted by her former boyfriend, John, with whom she has ended a relationship and who has told her he has been having panic attacks. She goes to Pauline's apartment, which she finds unlocked and in disarray. In the bathroom, which is covered in blood, she finds Pauline's severed head in a plastic bag in the sink. Traumatized, Frannie is briefly questioned by Malloy at the police station and then is driven home by a female uniformed police officer. After entering the apartment, she gets drunk. Later, Cornelius comes to the apartment, displaying a bruised eye, which he blames on police interrogators. While there, he attempts to rape her—an attack that is interrupted by Detective Rodriguez, who states that he was sent by Malloy to check on her. Cornelius swiftly leaves. Malloy shows up later and reveals that the killer's 'signature' is leaving a ring on the finger of his victims. They begin to flirt and she handcuffs him to a pipe before making love to him. After sex, Frannie discovers that he had a key to Pauline's apartment. She searches for the handcuff keys in his jacket and finds the missing charm. He claims he found it at the scene of her assault and planned to return it to her but she is suspicious. She finally confronts Malloy about his tattoo, as well as her suspicion that he is a serial killer, responsible for the string of murders. She flees the apartment, leaving Malloy handcuffed. She has Malloy's jacket in hand and is met by Rodriguez outside. He tells her they need to talk and persuades her to get into his unmarked police car.

As the two discuss what has transpired, Rodriguez drives Frannie to the Little Red Lighthouse below the George Washington Bridge, commenting that he likes to go fishing there. She tells him that the location reminds her of a book she teaches, To the Lighthouse. While the two talk, Frannie notices Rodriguez has the same 3 of spades tattoo on his wrist as Malloy. Rodriguez claims that he and Malloy got identical tattoos after their first big bust together. Realizing it is actually Rodriguez — not Malloy — who is the killer, Frannie fears she is to be his next victim. Rodriguez realises Frannie knows he is the killer, but holds out a ring on the end of his knife, asking, "Will you marry me?" Donning Malloy's jacket, which contains his gun, Frannie holds Rodriguez at gunpoint before shooting him once. He attempts to strangle her, but she manages to fire the gun again, killing him. She walks, bloodied, back to her apartment and lies down with the exhausted Malloy, who is still cuffed to the pipe where she left him.



Laurie Parker and Jane Campion spent five years developing the film.[8] 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.[8] This film was executive produced by Effie T. Brown,[9] in association with Sony Screen Gems and Pathe International.

Box office[edit]

In the Cut grossed $1,666,830 at the box office in Australia.[10]

The total worldwide gross of In the Cut was $23,726,793.[2]



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."[11] On Metacritic the film has a score of 46 out of 100 based on reviews from 38 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[12] CinemaScore gave it a rating of "F" based on surveys from general audiences.[13]

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."[14] 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."[15]

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”.[4] 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”.[16]

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.[3]

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”.[3]

In the Cut was among the films discussed favorably by Slavoj Žižek in The Pervert's Guide to Cinema (2006).[17]


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.[18][6][19] 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.[20]

The film is also a deconstruction of fantasies of romance,[6] particularly the idealization of marriage.[19] 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",[7] citing Campion's "use of speed ramping, slow motion, lens flares, and more".[7] 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".[21] Film critic David Thomson has also called the film a masterpiece,[22] and, in his book Moments That Made the Movies, hails it as "one of the great films of the twenty-first century."[23]


  1. ^ "In the Cut (2003) - Financial Information". The Numbers.
  2. ^ a b "In the Cut". Box Office Mojo.
  3. ^ a b c Hornaday, Ann (October 31, 2003). "'In the Cut': Provocatively Predictable". The Washington Post.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ a b Dargis, Manohla (October 22, 2003). "Hot and cold". Los Angeles Times.
  5. ^ Smith, Justine (April 30, 2018). "Re-examining the challenging eroticism of In the Cut". Little White Lies.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ a b c Richard, David Evan (September 2017). "In the Cut (Jane Campion, 2003)". Senses of Cinema.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ a b c Vasquez, Zach (November 17, 2021). "IN THE CUT: A Secret American Giallo Masterpiece". Fangoria.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. ^ a b Dargis, Manohla (October 26, 2003). "She's happily unruly". Los Angeles Times.
  9. ^ "Effie T. Brown - Film Independent". Film Independent. Retrieved January 19, 2018.
  10. ^ "Film Victoria - Australian Films at the Australian Box Office" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on February 18, 2011. Retrieved November 21, 2010.
  11. ^ "In the Cut". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved February 1, 2020.
  12. ^ "In the Cut Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved March 10, 2020.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ McCarthy, Todd (September 9, 2003). "In the Cut". Variety.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  15. ^ Noel Murray (2003). "In The Cut". The A.V. Club. The Onion.
  16. ^ LaSalle, Mick (October 31, 2003). "Sordid sex in the city, mixed with plenty of ennui, make for potent cocktail". San Francisco Chronicle.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  17. ^ Gottlieb, Akiva (August 24, 2011). "Shelf Life: Jane Campion reconsidered". The Nation. Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  18. ^ Kim, Kristen Yoonsoo (February 5, 2018). "Meg Ryan Once Starred in an Erotic Thriller Made for and by Women". Vice.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  19. ^ a b Roarty, Margaret (November 13, 2020). "'In the Cut' and How Marriage Can Kill You, Actually". The Film Magazine.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  20. ^ Searles, Jourdain (January 9, 2019). "Meg Ryan's 'In the Cut' Is the Most Underrated Erotic Thriller of the 21st Century". Thrillist.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  21. ^ James, Nick (November 27, 2020). "Twenty-first century noir". Sight & Sound.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  22. ^ 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)
  23. ^ Thomson, David (2014). Moments That Made the Movies. Thames & Hudson. p. 277. ISBN 0500516413.

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