(2002)3Brian J. DillardOver the course of her long career, crime novelist Patricia Highsmith wrote five novels centered around the amoral everyman Tom Ripley. This rich oeuvre has inspired films as diverse as Wim Wenders' The American Friend and Anthony Minghella's The Talented Mr. Ripley. But, whereas previous Ripley films teased out the sexual and moral ambiguity of their anti-hero, writer/director Liliana Cavani turns him into a standard-issue effete Euro-villain, albeit one whose American origins are left intact. John Malkovich could have made an interesting and effective grown-up Ripley, one whose long tenure in the pampered upper classes hadn't shored up his essentially amorphous persona. But in Cavani's hands, Malkovich inhabits a character of tics and hard exteriors whose inner life only comes out in unwieldy declarations about the nature of evil. Despite fine work from Dougray Scott and Lena Headey, Ripley's Game emerges as a stylish but empty potboiler full of exciting true-crime sequences but little thematic spark. Cavani's focus on plot and her inability to translate her characters' inner lives into cinematic language rob the story of its uneasy resonance. The result is a stylish picture-postcard of noir rather than the real, psychologically complex article.