Patricia Highsmith is one of those novelists whose time, unfortunately, has come posthumously. Though she died in 1996, it has only been recently that her gifts as a novelist have been appreciated. Much of her core writing examined the psyches of homosexual characters, never exploiting them, only using their sexuality as an enhancement of their full character development. RIPLEY'S GAME, the most recent transfer of Highsmith's book to film, is part of a trilogy she wrote about the character of Tom Ripley, a sensitive, gentle soul who finds his way into the world of the wealth by means of criminal acts. In the first book of the trilogy THE TALENTED MR RIPLEY, Tom Ripley is driven by his need for acceptance not only in the (to him) inaccessible world of the wealthy, but also in his urgent need to be loved by other men. In the second novel, RIPLEY UNDERGROUND, Highsmith seems to drop the sexual overtones in favor of pushing Tom Ripley into the arms of a wealthy wife and monetary power, capitalizing on the greed for achievement overshadowing the need for love. By RIPLEY'S GAME the usual trademark Highsmith sexual innuendoes have nothing to do with Ripley, but are very much present in the life of Ripley's confidant in crime - Reeves.
This final installment in the Ripley stories has Ripley as teacher, instructing his pupil in the macabre methods of murder for gain. In the title role John Malkovich is his usual wily, brilliant, but misdirected self and his performance is superb (if similar to all of his other roles). Dougray Scott is Ripley's odd pupil Jonathan, Lena Headey his wife Sarah, Ray Winstone is Reeves, and with Chiara Caselli as Ripley's harpsichordist paramour all four add fine performances. There is beautiful photography of Berlin and Rome and the movement is kept at a keen pace by Director Liliana Cavani. So why just 4 stars? There is just not the flavor of Highsmith's lack of predictability here to justify that. But in all, it is an entertaining movie and sure to encourage more to read the works of Patricia Highsmith.