“Riphagen” provides an answer to anyone who believes that the Holocaust was carried out by people who were just following orders or that the Germans alone have the blood of 6 million Jews on their hands.
It’s an epic, thrilling depiction of how the Nazi terror provided the cover for and was supported by individual examples of evil across Europe.
The film’s real-life anti-hero, Dutch gangster Andries Riphagen, is evil personified — a terrifying accomplishment for a man living under Nazi occupation. He has no conscience in playing the Nazi SD intelligence agency against the Dutch resistance, and he takes so much delight in swindling Amsterdam’s Jews out of their wealth and property before betraying them that he takes photographs with each family or individual to document the trust in him.
All the secrecy and double dealing provide continual opportunities for action and for tense confrontations, and “Riphagen” makes the most of them.
Jeroen van Koningsbrugge’s portrayal of Riphagen mixes charisma and menace in a performance that matches the power and brutality Robert De Niro delivered as Al Capone in “The Untouchables.”
And as De Niro’s Capone needed the goodness of Kevin Costner’s FBI agent Eliot Ness as a contrast, so “Riphagen” offsets van Koningsbrugge with Kay Greidanus as Dutch policeman and resistance fighter Jan van Liempd. It’s van Liempd’s obsession with justice and revenge that drives the second half of the film and adds the nuisance to make the movie much more than a depressing exploration of evil.