Ripley's Game (film)

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Ripley's Game
Ripleys game poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLiliana Cavani
Produced bySimon Bosanquet
Ricardo Tozzi
Ileen Maisel
Screenplay byCharles McKeown
Liliana Cavani
Based onRipley's Game
by Patricia Highsmith
StarringJohn Malkovich
Dougray Scott
Ray Winstone
Lena Headey
Music byEnnio Morricone
CinematographyAlfio Contini
Edited byJon Harris
Distributed by01 Distribuzione (Italy)
Entertainment Film Distributors (UK)
Fine Line Features (US)
Release date
  • 2 September 2002 (2002-09-02) (Venice)
  • 7 February 2003 (2003-02-07) (Italy)
  • 30 May 2003 (2003-05-30) (United Kingdom)
  • 4 September 2003 (2003-09-04) (United States: TV)
Running time
110 minutes[1]
United Kingdom
United States
BudgetUS$30 million

Ripley's Game is a 2002 thriller film directed by Liliana Cavani. It is adapted from the 1974 novel of the same name, the third in Patricia Highsmith's "Ripliad", a series of books chronicling the murderous adventures of con artist Tom Ripley. John Malkovich stars as Ripley, opposite Dougray Scott and Ray Winstone. Highsmith's novel was previously adapted in 1977 as The American Friend by director Wim Wenders, starring Dennis Hopper and Bruno Ganz.


Tom Ripley is involved in an art forgery scheme in Berlin, in partnership with a thuggish British gangster named Reeves. After a violent argument results in Ripley killing one of his "customers", he gives the money to Reeves but keeps the artwork for himself, curtly informing Reeves that their partnership is over. Three years later, Ripley is living in a lush villa in Veneto with his wife Luisa, a beautiful harpsichordist. Invited by a neighbour to a party, Ripley overhears the host, Jonathan Trevanny, insulting his taste and making a guarded reference to his questionable past. Ripley briefly confronts him, then sullenly leaves the party.

Reeves resurfaces, much to Ripley's annoyance, asking him to eliminate a rival mobster. Remembering the slight, Ripley recommends that an amateur be hired to do it – Trevanny, a law-abiding art framer who is dying of leukemia. Reeves offers a bewildered Trevanny the job. Knowing that he doesn't have long to live and that the money could be left to his wife and son upon his death, Trevanny reluctantly agrees to perform the hit, which he assumes will be a one-time-only assignment. However, Reeves blackmails Trevanny into taking on another assassination, this time a much more complicated one on a train.

A panicking Trevanny freezes up on the train, but Ripley appears unexpectedly and intervenes in the nick of time. After the two of them dispatch the target and his two bodyguards in the train's toilet, Trevanny forms an uneasy friendship with Ripley and returns home. He then vainly attempts to persuade his wife Sarah that he won his money from playing roulette after his hospital visit in Berlin. The mobsters' associates come to Italy seeking revenge, killing Reeves at his favourite restaurant and leaving his body in the boot of their car. They storm Ripley's villa but are snared in Ripley's traps. Ripley cleverly terminates each of them, with Trevanny's increasingly eager assistance.

Trevanny returns home to find two more assassins holding Sarah captive. At the same time, Ripley spots the killers' silver BMW outside in the bushes and doubles back to Trevanny's in time to save his wife. However, Trevanny sacrifices himself to save Ripley being shot by a wounded assassin. Genuinely puzzled by Trevanny's selflessness, Ripley tries to give Sarah her husband's share of the blood money, but she only spits in his face in reply. That night, Ripley attends Luisa's concert as if nothing has happened, but smiles briefly at the memory of Trevanny's sacrifice.



The film received positive critical reviews, with a 92% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 24 reviews.[2] Roger Ebert added Ripley's Game to his "Great Movies" list, calling it "the best of the four" Ripley films he had seen (Purple Noon, The American Friend, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Ripley's Game) and Malkovich "precisely the Tom Ripley I imagine when I read the novels," praising what he felt to be "one of [his] most brilliant and insidious performances."[3] Ebert criticized the decision not to release the film theatrically in North America, writing: "The failure to open it theatrically was a shameful blunder."[4]

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film 3.5 stars out of 4, writing: "Malkovich oils himself around the plot – icy cool one moment, blazingly violent the next – with a master's finesse. Highsmith wrote five Ripley novels, and other actors have played the part, most recently and most blandly Matt Damon in The Talented Mr. Ripley. But Malkovich owns the role. He plays it for keeps."[5] David Rooney of Variety wrote, "Malkovich's elegantly malicious performance gives Ripley's Game a magnetic center, complemented by Liliana Cavani's efficient direction and an enjoyable retro feel that recalls the British Cold War thrillers of the 1960s. Despite some pedestrian plotting and a final act that could be tighter, this is suspenseful adult entertainment that should find a receptive audience."[6]

Other critics were less favorable, such as Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian, who gave the film two stars out of five.[7] Some critics compared the film unfavorably to Wim Wenders' 1977 adaptation, The American Friend. Nathan Rabin of The Onion's A.V. Club remarked, "Ripley's Game fatally lacks the squirmy, desperate humanity that made Wenders' take on the same material so hauntingly tragic. Like Malkovich's suavely generic international criminal, it's all craft and no soul, with complexity and depth functioning as collateral damage for its slick thriller mechanics."[8] Neil Young's Film Lounge, giving Ripley's Game a score of 6 out of 10, called the film a "largely uninspired" adaptation by a "pedestrian" director, calling The American Friend "brilliant" by comparison, feeling that "any viewer who is a fan of Highsmith and/or The American Friend will have major problems with this version."[9]


  1. ^ "RIPLEY'S GAME (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 2003-04-01. Retrieved 2012-09-01.
  2. ^ Ripley's Game Movie Reviews, Pictures - Rotten Tomatoes
  3. ^ Ripley's Game :: :: Great Movies
  4. ^ A talented Mr. Ripley gets snubbed :: :: Answer Man
  5. ^ Ripley's Game : Review : Rolling Stone
  6. ^ Ripley's Game Review - Read Variety's Analysis Of The Movie Ripley's Game
  7. ^ Ripley's Game | Culture | The Guardian
  8. ^ Ripley's Game| DVD | Review | The A.V. Club
  9. ^ Neil Young's Film Lounge - Ripley's Game

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