Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The American Friend

(Der amerikanische freund, 1977)

The last of the four Ripley movies we set out to see (Ripley Under Ground was filmed in 2005 with Barry Pepper, but it’s not available on video). Directed by Wim Wenders, who’s usually pretty good, but this one is a mess. For one thing, Ripley is barely in it until the last 45 minutes. For another, I smell Dennis Hopper all over it. He wears a cowboy hat and boots, and that is so not Ripley. I’d wager it was Hopper’s idea. The plot of the book, Ripley’s Game, is here, sort of, but they’ve also dragged in plot elements from the previous book, Ripley Under Ground, which involves art forgeries, for no good reason that I can see. The plot involves scamming a man into thinking he’s dying so some people can pay him to assassinate somebody and thus leave money to his family. Damn unlikely, I think you’ll agree (nobody ever explained to me why not hire a real assassin instead of this incompetent), but I think Patricia Highsmith pulled it off. This film doesn’t. It’s embarrassingly bad in places, and the good stuff doesn’t make up for it.