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    Review: Andrew Scott is talented, but 'Ripley' remake is a vacuous flop

    By Kelly Lawler, USA TODAY,


    "Nice to look at but nothing going on inside" is an insulting thing to say about a person, and also an accurate description of Netflix's "Ripley."

    And yes, the new take on "The Talented Mr. Ripley" novels by Patricia Highsmith (previously adapted as a 1999 film starring Matt Damon and Jude Law) is undoubtedly beautiful. Starring Andrew Scott ("Fleabag") and shot in slick black-and-white, the story of a grifter and his mark makes great use of the Italian countryside and the statuesque performers.

    But beauty only gets you so far. Creator Steven Zaillian ("The Irishman," "The Night Of") forgot to make an interesting TV show underneath the artfully composed shots. "Ripley" (now streaming, ★½ out of four) is a very pretty waste of time.
    Andrew Scott as Tom Ripley in "Ripley." Lorenzo Sisti/Netflix

    Scott, at his most creepy and conniving, plays Tom Ripley, a low-rent con artist in New York in the 1960s who gets the opportunity of a lifetime when a rich shipping magnate employs him to convince the man's wayward heir to come home and stop gallivanting across Italy. Tom arrives in a tiny coastal town to find Dickie Greenleaf (Johnny Flynn) and his girlfriend Marge (Dakota Fanning) living the good life, with no intention of returning to work in New York.

    Instead of trying to return Dickie stateside, Tom ingratiates himself in the man's life, moving into his house and planting negative thoughts about Marge in Dickie's mind. And if he happens to try on some of Dickie's clothes and try his hand at Dickie's WASPy accent, well, that's all just normal behavior, right?

    To explain much more about the plot would spoil the show, but for those who have seen the film version, the series is more focused on Tom than Dickie. In fact, "Ripley" seems to exist entirely as a showcase for Scott's unique brand of barely contained rage that he perfected as infamous villain Moriarty in BBC's "Sherlock" alongside Benedict Cumberbatch. And there's no denying Scott is very good at playing Ripley. If only this Tom Ripley did anything remotely interesting.
    Dakota Fanning as Marge Sherwood and Johnny Flynn as Dickie Greenleaf in "Ripley." Netflix

    The writing just isn't up to par. The plot moves at a glacial pace and the dialogue is stilted and unbelievable. There's an argument to be made that the series is heightened to convey a somewhat unreal atmosphere, but if that was the goal it's not how the meandering scenes come off. The other actors are fine but barely involved. More time is seemingly spent on shots of Scott wandering around stone steps and cobbled streets than interacting with other characters.

    We talk to Andrew Scott: How he gives 'The Talented Mr. Ripley' a sinister makeover

    It is particularly egregious, considering the talent involved, that the first two episodes are so dull as to be soporific. Later episodes finally begin to hold your attention, but it doesn't go from zero to amazing in that time. I can't recommend you keep watching until it gets good because it only gets less bad.
    Andrew Scott as Tom Ripley in "Ripley." Netflix

    Yet Zaillian created a thrilling series without much traditional "action" HBO's "The Night Of") in 2016 and has written such films as "Schindler's List" and "Searching for Bobby Fischer." As a writer and director on "Ripley," perhaps one duty overshadowed the other. Because each shot is composed like the Caravaggio paintings Dickie is so fond of showing Tom all over Naples. But great artistry usually has a point to it.

    The point might be Scott's magnetic, alluring face. But even he can't hold up this series alone. It's as much of a con as anything Tom Ripley has done.

    This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Review: Andrew Scott is talented, but 'Ripley' remake is a vacuous flop

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