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Byline: ALEXANDER WALKER

Ripley's Game

(15) John Malkovich, Dougray Scott, Ray Winstone Dir: Liliana Cavani US/UK/It, 110min

So Matt Damon, the talented Mr Ripley in Anthony Minghella's 1999 version of Patricia Highsmith's seminal novel, grew up to be John Malkovich. That's the first - but not the least - of the problems in Liliana Cavani's very wobbly adaptation of this 'sequel'.

Malkovich's cool, supercilious, coldhearted Ripley is now installed in his middle age in a splendid Palladian palazzo and deals in forged works of art.

Dougray Scott is his English neighbour, Jonathan Trevanny, a picture framer.

Ray Winstone (below) is Reeves, a lowlife accomplice of Ripley's who enlists his help in murdering a Russian mobster. Ripley passes on the task to Trevanny who's dying of leukaemia and is willing to take the risk.

All this is very awkwardly and unconvincingly motivated.

Why should Reeves not recruit a killer on his own turf? Would a totally inexperienced hit-man like Trevanny manage to tackle a multiple murder by garotting aboard a high-speed train?

Little makes sense, least of all the protracted siege when the villains come knocking at Ripley's door. What reads well in Highsmith's Ripley novels doesn't remotely hold up when turned into movie terms.

Minghella didn't succeed, Cavani succeeds even less.

Malkovich remains the compensating pleasure.

Dolls (12A) Miho Kanno, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Tatsuya Mihashi Dir: Takeshi Kitano Jap, 113min

Writer-director Takeshi Kitano makes two kinds of pictures: art ones and yakuza ones.

The first are beauties, the second are bloody. This (with Kyoko Fakunda and Tsutoma Takeshige, above) falls severely into the first class, and although it has ravishing images, the complexity and sheer foreignness of its story may be stumbling blocks to Western comprehension.

It translates the traditional Japanese Bunraki puppet entertainment into human terms and modern idiom. An ambitious young man jilts his fiancee in order to marry the boss's daughter, then, hearing she attempted suicide, repents for letting material things overrule his love. He literally ties himself to the girl to keep her safe and the two begin years of hard travelling throughout Japan in a manner that recalls a 17th-century folk tale, The Bound Beggars, that's a favourite of the puppet theatre. Their loneliness is paralleled in interlocking stories involving a crime boss and a disfigured pop star. …