They’re out to get me

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Film Reviews -

THE SER­PENT/LE SER­PENT Di­rected by Eric Bar­bier. Star­ring Yvan At­tal, Clo­vis Cornil­lac, Pierre Richard, Si­mon Abkar­ian 16 cert, Cineworld/Screen, Dublin, 119 min TOO many of the French films that make it to Ir­ish cine­mas th­ese days seem to con­cern bour­geois din­ner par­ties, dur­ing which peo­ple won­der what, ex­actly, Daniel Au­teuil is up to. It is, thus, grat­i­fy­ing to get a gawp at a de­cent piece of genre film-mak­ing from across La Manche.

The Ser­pent, which is based on an ob­scure book by Get Carter au­thor Ted Lewis, is of that class of thriller in which an or­di­nary mid­dle-class man is dragged from com­pla­cency to des­per­a­tion af­ter the ar­rival of some brutish fig­ure from his past. Yvan At­tal plays a fash­ion pho­tog­ra­pher who, as the ac­tion be­gins, is in the process of break­ing up with his sleek wife. The cus­tody bat­tle for the chil­dren turns in her favour when the hero is ac­cused of rap­ing a pho­to­graphic model.

Later, the young wo­man turns up dead in the boot of the un­for­tu­nate man’s car and he be­gins to sus­pect that some­body is act­ing out an an­cient vendetta against him. He’s right. A square-faced private de­tec­tive, played with un­set­tling in­ten­sity by Clo­vis Cornil­lac, has made it his busi­ness to de­stroy the snap­per’s cosy life.

There are far too many handy co­in­ci­dences and ob­scure mo­ti­va­tions in this tense, vi­o­lent film, but Jerome Robert’s dusky pho­tog­ra­phy and the strong, con­trast­ing cen­tral per­for­mances com­bine to cre­ate a pleas­ingly dis­con­cert­ing at­mos­phere through­out.

The French can, still, do this sort of main­stream pic­ture ev­ery bit as well as the Amer­i­cans. Though it’s al­ways nice to see, say, Michael Douglas get the sort of beat­ing At­tal re­ceives here, let’s hope nei­ther he, nor any of his pals, is con­tem­plat­ing a re­make. DON­ALD CLARKE

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