The American Friend

The American Friend

19772 h 07 min

Tom Ripley, who deals in forged art, suggests a picture framer he knows would make a good hit man.

Director Wim Wenders
Runtime 2 h 07 min
Release Date 26 June 1977
Movie Rating Very good

Tom Ripley (Dennis Hopper) is a wealthy American living in Hamburg, Germany. He is involved in an artwork forgery scheme, in which he appears at auctions to bid on forged paintings produced by an accomplice and artificially drives up the price. At one of these auctions, he is introduced to Jonathan Zimmermann (Bruno Ganz), a picture framer who is dying of a rare and unspecified blood disease. Zimmermann refuses to shake Ripley’s hand when introduced, coldly saying “I’ve heard of you” before walking away.

A French criminal named Raoul Minot (Gérard Blain) asks Ripley to murder a rival gangster. Ripley declines, but in order to get even for Zimmermann’s slight, suggests Minot use Zimmermann for the job. Ripley spreads rumors that Zimmerman’s illness has become suddenly far more serious. Minot offers Zimmerman a great deal of money to kill the gangster. Zimmermann initially turns Minot down, but becomes greatly distressed by the thought that he may not have long to live and wants to provide for his wife and son. He agrees with Minot to come to France for a second medical opinion. Minot arranges to have the results falsified to make Zimmermann expect the worst. Zimmermann agrees to shoot the gangster in a Paris Métro station. Ripley visits Zimmermann in his shop before and after the shooting to get a picture framed. Zimmerman is unaware of Ripley’s involvement in the murder of the gangster, and the two begin to form a bond.

Minot visits Ripley again to report his satisfaction with Zimmermann’s performance. Ripley, who has grown to like Zimmerman, is appalled when Minot says he plans to have him murder another rival gangster, this time on a speeding train using a garrote. Before Zimmermann can complete the murder, the bodyguard of the second target catches Zimmermann. Ripley appears on the train and overpowers him. Both Zimmermann and Ripley execute the target as well as a bodyguard. Ripley and Zimmermann meet outside and Ripley confesses to his role in suggesting him to Minot, and declines Zimmermann’s suggestion to keep half of the money for the second hit. Ripley advises Zimmermann to tell Minot that he did the job on the train alone. Back home, Zimmermann argues with his wife, Marianne, who does not believe his stories of being paid to undergo experimental treatments…

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