In the Cut (2003) starring Meg Ryan, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kevin Bacon, Nick Damici directed by Jane Campion Movie Review

In the Cut (2003)   3/53/53/53/53/5

Meg Ryan as Frannie Avery in In the Cut

It Gets Lost in the Cut

First up, if the only Meg Ryan movies you have seen are of the fluffy romantic comedy variety then "In the Cut" is going to shock you because not only does Meg Ryan not look like Meg Ryan but she also strips bare and has sex. And trust me "In the Cut" is as far away from a fluffy romantic comedy as you can get with a murder mystery storyline which under the direction of Jane Campion aims to be gritty. I say aims because quite honestly "In the Cut" seems confused as it seems more fascinated with the sexual liaisons between Frannie and Detective Giovanni A. Malloy than the actual murder mystery side of this storyline. Maybe that was intentional, maybe this was meant to be a movie about a woman who if you like gets off on danger and shows her strength by putting herself in danger but if it was that doesn't come across either. What "In the Cut" ends up is a rather strange movie which will certainly please those who want boundary pushing sexual elements but disappoint those who expected a thriller which draws you in.

Frannie Avery (Meg Ryan - You've Got Mail) is a rather plain looking teacher who finds herself being asked out on a date by Detective Giovanni A. Malloy (Mark Ruffalo - Windtalkers) who is in her neighbourhood because he is on the case of a serial killer who left a body part near her apartment. Whilst their date goes wrong Frannie ends up in the arms of Malloy when she is mugged on the way home and calls him for help. Sparks soon fly between them as she enjoys the danger of the sexual liaisons she has with the controlling Malloy but she also begins to doubt whether he is all that he seems, an issue which is compounded by the serial killer still at work and a former lover who has taken to stalking her.

Mark Ruffalo as Detective Giovanni A. Malloy in In the Cut

On face value "in the Cut" appears to want to be a sexy thriller with a similarity to "Basic Instinct" but being both grittier and more risque. And so in what seems a very typical thriller style we have a murder, we have detectives and a woman who ends up becoming very close to Detective Giovanni A. Malloy. But I did say there was a similarity to "Basic Instinct" and it lies in the fact that Frannie witnessed a man getting a blow job in the toilets of a bar, a man who could be the murderer and a man with a very distinct tattoo on his wrist, a tattoo which happens to be identical to the one on Det. Malloy's wrists. And so we have this element of danger as Frannie fantasizes about Det. Malloy and eventually sleeps with him, baring all and playing some risque sexual games.

But here is the thing the whole murder mystery side of things tends to take a back seat, occasionally rearing its head until it finally comes to the fore during a less than spectacular and frankly rather obvious climax. As such it ends up feeling like "In the Cut" is all about the sex, all about trying to be risque and push boundaries and in the blow job scene it most certainly appears to be pushing boundaries. But whilst the various sex scenes are shot in an exciting but also artistic manner it does almost feel exploitative in a way that because Meg Ryan is the star and she strips off and has sex her sexual liaisons end up becoming the main subject. Maybe that was the point, maybe this was meant to be a movie about a woman enjoying the danger of her sexual relationship but in the end that doesn't come across.

Now as dramatic performances go I've seen Meg Ryan give better but this is still a strong an convincing performance and one which takes some time to get use to especially as she looks like Nicole Kidman through out the movie, which maybe down to Kidman being originally cast in the role of Frannie Avery. Ryan tries to make Frannie interesting by being almost a contradiction, this very plain, ordinary looking woman yet one who has this other side, this dangerous side as initially shown in the washroom scene where she observes the man getting a blow job from the shadows. And when it comes to the sexual side of things Ryan also delivers a strong convincing performance which does reach the heights of being erotic.

Meg Ryan is not alone in giving a good performance as Mark Ruffalo is her equal as Detective Giovanni A. Malloy a man who the minute we meet makes us question his motives. Ruffalo gives him that needed element of danger, a commanding man who has this controlling power which makes the sexual encounters all the more erotic and dangerous. What is a shame is the rest of the cast which includes Jennifer Jason Leigh and Sharrieff Pugh who seem pushed to the sides and when they enter the story it seems wrong as if they are their to pad things out and give a moments relief from the sexual relationships.

What this all boils down to is that "In the Cut" is a brave but also confusing movie. As a thriller, a murder mystery it's not very original and seems to take a back seat to all the erotic side of things. And as an erotic thriller about a woman enjoying the danger of a physical relationship it feels almost exploitative as if more was being made of Meg Ryan getting naked and having sex scenes than was necessary. It will certainly titillate those who want to watch sex scenes and nudity but for those looking for a thriller may find it confused and a little dull.