I remember sitting in a theatre, what seems like years ago now, and viewing the trailer for Ripley's Game starring John Malkovich. I wondered if it was a sequel to the Matt Damon vehicle, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and I raced home to find that was exactly the case. Looking back, I cannot remember a date being flashed across the screen as to when Ripley's Game would be accessible, but usually it only takes a few months before our thirsts are quenched.
Then came 2004, and my local DVD provider began to advertise Ripley's Game as an upcoming release on disc. At first, I couldn't remember why the name was so familiar, but after a quick internet check, I found that two years later, Ripley's Game was being released without ever hitting a theatrical venue in North America. Too bad.
Ripley's Game gives us an older Tom Ripley. Gone are the chiseled good looks and innocent smile of Matt Damon and in are the glacial stares of the stoic Malkovich. When we catch up to Tom he is still the con man brokering an art forgery transaction that leaves one dead and Ripley unamused. We quickly forward ahead three years to Italy where we find Ripley in his favorable environment. Tom is living in a luxurious villa and has a woman he completely adores.
Ripley's old life soon catches up with him and a former associate looks to Tom for help with some Russian mafia types. Ripley suggests the use of an innocent' for the job and gives him the name of a fellow countryman Tom has a slight distaste. Soon the novice is coerced into contract killings becomes part of Ripley's dastardly web of deception and murder, and the two join forces to first complete a contract and then later to save each other's lives.
It's great to have a film that picks up a fascinating character years after. Wouldn't you like to see what Forrest Gump is up to in 2004? Or what about Elliot from E.T. or Michael Douglas from Fatal Attraction? Without parading sequels that try and catch a character one second from the time the final frame of the original finished, wouldn't it be fresh to check in on some of our faves? Well Ripley's Game does just that.
As Ripley, Malkovich gives us an incredibly restrained performance. He kept me thinking that this is probably what Hannibal Lecter would be like if he had a family or other interests. Whether he is talking to someone about the restoration of a vintage piano or killing someone in a train's restroom, his pulse never seems to race nor does he seem terribly concerned about the chaos left in his wake.
Even when he surprises us by showing up to help the same man he pulled into his world, we don't see it as guilt or an attempt to show dominance in the world of criminal activity. Instead, Malkovich projects a man who is just going about his business no matter what the reprehensible activity may encompass.
Ripley's game is an exceptional film that unfortunately got ignored by the Hollywood studio system. Maybe they were too busy with the Lord of the Rings trilogies. But, if I were to add up all the movie tickets for movies like Eurotrip, 50 First Dates and Starsky & Hutch, it even seems more of a waste that I wasn't given the opportunity to get comfortable in the local multi-plex for Ripley.