Last night Rome Girl and I watched Ripley Under Ground
an independent movie that was shot three years ago but has yet to find an American distributer (though there is some talk about it being shopped at Sundance this year.)
We grabbed it on Mininova because we are both huge fans of the Tom Ripley
character in Patrica Highsmith's books.
Ripley's influence is far and wide - he's the basis for both Patrick Bateman in American Psycho and Dexter is the Dexter books among any number of other psychopaths.
Most people, if they know Ripley at all, only know him from the Matt Damon movie that came out about a decade ago - which does a fine job, but is far from a 100 percent Ripley experience. That movie was based on the first book - and Ripley isn't quite good at being Ripley yet. He's yet to grow up into the full on psychopath he'll become.
What makes Ripley interesting in all of the books is that he's not only an anti-hero, he's a non hero. He's not a crazy axe wielding freak who likes to kill, nor is he Dexter who always tries to do the right thing by killing.
Overall he's a likable guy. The kind of dude you'd meet at a dinner party, have a few words with and then mostly forget about him.
And that's how he likes it. All he wants is a fairly comfortable life of leisure. Nothing more and nothing less. To get that life he sometimes has to kill and often has to commit fraud, but he does so incidentally.
In fact, whenever Rome Girl finishes reading a Ripley book she usually gives me a pointed glance and comments that Ripley and his wife live exactly the type of life she wants to have. So far, I've yet to find anyone to profitably kill.
Ripley takes no joy in the killing or the fraud, nor does he feel any guilt. He describes killing a man in the same way that I'd describe cleaning the toilet - a sort of gross chore that has to be done once in a while.
Which is what makes Ripley fascinating - because he has a complete absence of feeling at all.
It makes anything possible in a Ripley book and everything sort of inevitable. In a way you know he'll always win, because like Keyser Soze, he's willing to do what other people won't - normal human feelings don't allow him to hesitate.
The movie we saw last night pretty much gets the character right - although it does sex him up a bit (in the books Ripley is either very closeted gay or asexual, Rome Girl and I can't agree on which.)
Barry Pepper plays Ripley in this version and William Dafoe does a nice job as the American who almost catches him (nothing in the world could be more dangerous than almost
catching Tom Ripley.)
I don't want to give away any more than that - but if it pops up in your local video store or if you find it on Mininova it's worth downloading.