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Ripley's Game (2002)

Our talented friend returns

Rating: 4/10

Running Time: 110 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

After torturing us all with that less-than-impressive French accent in "Johnny English", John Malkovich is back on European soil – though, mercifully, he's using his own voice this time.

Malkovich is playing Tom Ripley, a character who may well sound familiar, and with good reason. Aside from being a regular name in the novels of Patricia Highsmith, he was most recently brought to the big screen by Matt Damon in 1999's "The Talented Mr Ripley". He was also played by Dennis Hopper in "The American Friend" (1977) and Alain Delon in "Purple Noon" (1960).

Set 20 years on from "The Talented Mr Ripley", Tom's kept his ruthless streak, if not his hair. His total lack of conscience means he can kill, coldly and clinically, without feeling as much as a sniffle of guilt. One man who knows it is Reeves (Ray Winstone) – which is probably why he travels all the way from Berlin to Ripley's home in Italy to ask him to rub out a Russian mafia boss for him. As you do.

For some reason Ripley doesn't want the $50,000 contract, so instead puts forward the name of lily-livered English picture-framer Jonathan (Dougray Scott) for the job. While any sane person would immediately know not to get involved, Jonathan eventually agrees to do the deed – hoping no doubt that the extra cash will come in handy for his wife (Lena Headey) and son after his death (he's dying from leukaemia).

When da mob are eventually led back to Ripley's house, he starts laying booby-traps all over the place before sitting down to a nice meal – a bit like "Home Alone", in fact. And, when he goes outside, he wears a beret – a bit like Frank Spencer.

Word has it this movie's production was fraught with problems, eventually leading to Malkovich taking over the directorial reigns from Liliana Cavani. Unfortunately, the change in approach only succeeds in creating crass inconsistency in Malkovich's character. For example, his decision to help Jonathan out of a particularly nasty scrape halfway through the film flies straight in the face of what has been built up over the first half. Ripley passes off his sudden growth of a conscience with some muttering about "being born every day" – for me, that's not enough.

It's Got: Lena Headey making even more of a name for herself after impressing in "The Parole Officer" and "The Actors".

It Needs: Ray Winstone to give the Cockney-hardman-by-numbers bit a rest.


A disappointing thriller that tries to hard too be atmospheric in the hope of covering up a largely hole-filled and one-dimensional plot.