By Clint Morris | October 24, 2003

Jane Campion brings to the screen Susanna Moore’s 1995 best seller, one of the year’s hottest, most in-your-face and ultimately tricky sexual thrillers. And it stars Meg Ryan.
Ryan – as you’ve never seen her before, with brown hair for one– plays Frannie Avery, a studious single New Yorker, whose job as a teacher and bond with her sister (Jennifer Jason Leigh) are the two things that keep her going. But her life is about to get a tad more exciting when she’s thrown smack bang into a murder case. Seems she’s witnessed something that might be an imperative clue to a murder that occurred on her block, and the cops are going to get everything that she knows out of her, whatever the price.
Enter Detective Malloy (Mark Ruffalo), a frank, slightly dodgy cop, whose job it is to question her. But pretty soon, Frannie works a spell over the cop that’ll have him more interested in helping her fluff the pillows than doodling on cop notepads.
It works for some; it doesn’t for others – Talking of course about disrobing for the cameras. The most eminent example would be Sharon Stone who did it and jubilantly for “Basic Instinct” [1991]. Her career exploded from the moment that her panties were flung. But it’s a way different ball game for Meg Ryan. The difference between Ryan now and Stone then, is that the latter was barely known back in those days, so in retrospect, she had nothing to lose. Ryan, has a lot to lose. Aside from alienating her rom-com fans, she’s got a reputation and career to think about. Must be a pretty special movie to be able to get the queen of comedy to go buff.
“In the Cut” most certainly is. Like “Basic Instinct”, it’s a sexually charged thriller centering around a cop and a sex-mad and slightly perplexing woman, who spent just as much time in the bedroom as the cop does on the beat trying to find the killer in a gruesome series of murders. But its much more than your generic erotic whodunit – though parts of the film do resemble a “Klute” or “Kiss the Girls” – it’s peculiarly beautiful, magnificently performed and appreciably in your face. Imagine painter Michelangelo as the cinematographer and you’ll get an idea of the kind of first-class, classy thriller we’re talking about.
Ultimately, this is a risk that was well worth taking for Ryan. She’s a knockout. And funnily enough, she was not even Campion’s first choice. That was Nicole Kidman, who had to pull out shortly before production. Curiously, it’s the Australian actress who Ryan looks a dead-ringer for in the movie. Coupled with the always dependable Mark Ruffalo (“You can count on me”), they’ve obvious screen chemistry, especially evident in the no-holds-barred bedroom scenes. And more importantly, give stellar, creditable, performances.
Fans of Moore’s book will be pleased with the job Campion has done with bringing it to the screen. It would’ve been quite a task. Not only is the book written as a ‘diary’ of sorts, from a first-person view, but the literary ending had to be changed entirely because it was just unfilmmable. But the film doesn’t suffer at all from the tweaking, in fact it’s only more the better with a much more thrilling conclusion and an added sense of trepidation.
Meg should get ‘em off more often.

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