Out of the many, many DVDs I've bought, "Ripley's Game" is one of the relative few that I really should have bought. I watched it for about the 10th time this evening and it never gets old.
Strangely, this film was never released in theatres. For most films that suffer this fate, I can see a reason why. But with this one, I can't.
It is, at its heart, and as with the other Ripley stories, a study of a psychopath who has no conscience and who comprehends this "gift" and uses it to his full advantage. When people say things like, "well, he did x and he has to live with himself"... Ripley is a guy that could do x and live with himself and sleep quite soundly at night. These types of people exist and are probably at the receiving end of such platitudes more often than others.
In the earlier Ripley films, such as "The Talented Mr. Ripley" (with Matt Damon in the lead role, and probably the most well-known in the series), Ripley was learning to become comfortable with his gift and how to best make use of it. He was trying a lot of things on. But, in "Ripley's Game", we are seeing a fully-adjusted Ripley who uses his gift in a machine-like fashion. In my opinion, the latter is a better movie.
"Ripley's Game" is an understated, mild movie with a demeanour that matches the public persona of Ripley himself at this stage of his life. It has a complementary instrumental score that never overwhelms, as well as some beautiful music on the harpsichord that is woven into the story as his wife practices her craft on various versions of the instrument in preparation for a live concert.
The film is set in Italy and shows off much of the country's great street life, architecture, and countryside. It has drama, dark humour, romance, and intrigue, and none are overblown or overemphasized. It flows freely and everyone is consistent with their characters. What more can you ask for?
Well, you could ask for the brilliant actor John Malkovich to play the sly lead role, and you get that, too. He is perfect for this role, and I can't imagine anyone else having done so well. He makes Ripley his own. So, is one of my favourite films a straight-to-video release? Yes, it is!
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