If you were ever acquainted with the basic facts about this film, you're
probably wondering whatever happened to it. It seemed to have a lot
going for it.
It is based on one of the popular Patricia
Highsmith novels about the charming, sophisticated psychopath Tom
Ripley, of which there are five: The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Boy
Who Followed Ripley, Ripley Under Ground, Ripley Under Water, and
The Talented Mr Ripley, a story about
the con artist as a young man, was a successful recent film starring
Matt Damon, so there was some pre-established interest in the
character, and John Malkovich seemed an appropriate choice to play
an older, more jaded Ripley.
Liliana Cavani was brought in to
direct, and she seemed to be a great choice to portray the Italian life of
high style in which the mature Ripley chose to live.
The basic plot is interesting. Ripley
overhears his neighbor insulting him and, in response to that disrespect, our
favorite psycho concocts an elaborate scheme of revenge that gets
the guy in trouble with the Russian and Ukrainian mobs in Berlin.
Then something unexpected happens. Ripley develops a conscience at
that very late stage in life, and decides that he has to bail the
poor schmuck out of the mess he got him into, so he ends up in
Germany battling the mobsters, and eventually forging a bond with
the man who had insulted him.
There are some great scenes. The
scene in which Ripley and his neighbor kill three gigantic mobsters,
one at a time of course, in the men's room on a German train is both
funny and taut.
Some of the Italian outdoor locales
are absolutely lush, and the interiors are absolutely spectacular.
Hats off to the person who came up with the locales.
The film also features some yeoman's
work from two screen veterans, cinematographer Alfio Contini, and
the legendary composer Ennio Morricone.
In addition to Malkovich, the
remaining cast is also appropriate. Dougray Scott is solid as
Ripley's victim-turned-ally. Ray Winstone is on hand to play one
of his usual roles as an overstuffed small-time mob boss who shows more
depth than one normally expects from a screen gangster. Winstone is
kind of establishing himself as kind of a Tony Soprano with a working class
British accent, and he's pretty damned good at it.