‘Ripley Under Ground’ (2005)

ripley_under_ground.jpg Filmed back in 2004, but left on the shelf for 3 years, ‘ Ripley Under Ground ‘ a/k/a ‘ White On White ‘ has been released on DVD in Europe.

Barry Pepper plays Ripley as a rock-star – long hair, a close shave and charisma to burn – and the tone of the thing is far lighter than any of the previous incarnations – ‘ Purple Noon ‘ ,’ The American Friend ‘, ‘ The Talented Mr. Ripley ‘, ‘ Ripley’s Game ‘, etc.

Some early reviewers have referred to it as a ‘comedy’, but it’s not, really. Unfortunately, the lighter tone actually hurts the film a bit, because this outing paints Mr. Ripley as less of a predator and sociopath than any of the Ripley films that have preceeded it.

Apparently, this interpretation sprang from a comment that Ms. Highsmith made about the filmed interpretations of her novels. Highsmith apparently felt that previous movie versions missed the humor of her character and the droll wit of her dark plots. But the humor in this effort undermines whatever suspense the film might have held.

Beside having freed Mr. Pepper from the short-haired grunts that he usually plays, the film really allows Alan Cumming and Claire Forlani to shine in ways that they usually aren’t allowed to when they are shoe-horned into American roles and American accents. She is officially excused from having participated in ‘Meet Joe Black’.

It’s a good, but not great film. The delight was seeing Barry Pepper stretch-out in the kind of role he’s seldom given. I typically enjoy the Ripley films and novels for their psychopathy, but this was different enough to be enjoyable. If you come across it on cable or the Shanghai bootleg carrels try not to overlook it.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆

Starring: Barry Pepper, Jacinda Barrett, Tom Wilkinson, Alan Cumming, Claire Forlani, Ian Hart, Willem Dafoe; Directed by Roger Spottiswoode

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