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Le Serpent

The Snake

France 2006
produced by
Olivier Delbosc, Eric Jehelmann, Marc Missonnier, Pierre Rambaldi for Fidélité Productions, Big World, Wild Bunch, Virtual Films, France 2, Canal+
directed by Eric Barbier
starring Yvan Attal, Clovis Cornillac, Pierre Richard, Simon Abkarian, Minna Haapkylä, Olga Kurylenko, Gérald Laroche, Jean-Claude Bouillon, Veronika Varga, Pierre Marzin, Katia Lewkowicz, Eric Naggar
screenplay by Eric Barbier, Nam Trân-Minh, based on the novel Plender by Ted Lewis, music by Renaud Barbier

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Plender (Clovis Cornillac) is officially a private detective ... but actually he makes most of his money as an extortionist, and his latest victim is photographer Vincent (Yvan Attal), who goes through a messy divorce and is fighting over custody for his children. Plender has him drugged and then photographed in compromising positions with model Sofia (Olga Kurylenko). Thing is, when Sofia leaves Vincent's studio, where the photos were taken, she falls down some stairs to her death. Being confronted with the girl's body, Plender immediately calls his lawyer-friend Sam (Simon Abkarian), but when Sam finally arrives, the body is gone ... only to later turn up in the trunk of Vincent's car.

Driving home, with the corpse in the back, Vincent's car is hit by Plender's - who turns out to be Vincent's buddy from school, and who now acts as if he was his best friend ... without letting Vincent know of course he's blackmailing him. Thing is, Plender and Vincent never really were friends at school, Plender was a loner and weirdo and the butt of everyone's jokes, until one of these jokes accidently went too far ... and now Plender obviously wants revenge.

Soon, Plender forces his way into the life of Vincent and his still-wife Hélène (Minna Haapkylä), still pretending to be Vincent's best friend ... and one night, stealing Vincent's car to have it fixed, to have the body removed - and then returning it. And then, he shows his true colours and demands half a million Euros from Vincent.

Vincent does his best to get out of the situation, even tries to give himself up to the police (who find themselves unable to act without an actual body), and he tries to get his friend Sam to help him. Sam soon digs in Plender's past and comes up with a few things - only to be killed by Plender, who then makes it look like an accident.

When Sofia's body is finally found, Vincent is arrested, but he escapes police custody and tracks down Cendras (Pierre Richard), another of Plender's blackmail victims, and together they try to beat Plender with his own weapons ... by stealing the body of his mother from her grave, the only person who was ever dear to Plender. But it seems Plender is already one step or two ahead of them since he has wormed his way into Vincent and Hélène's house and taken Hélène and the kids hostage. But still, he walks into a trap set up by Vincent and Cendras and is ultimately shot by the police ... but by that time, he has already locked Hélène and the kids into a freezer - and Vincent only manages to find them at the very last minute ...

 

By and large, Le Serpent is a pretty suspenseful and tense thriller ... but that said, at times it's also terribly constructed and a bit too convoluted to ever reach its full potential, while the direction lacks inventiveness and atmosphere. That said, the film is still competently enough handled to keep one interested for almost two hours of running time, and Clovis Cornillac is certainly creepy enough as the film's villain.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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On the same day
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directed by
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written by
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starring
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out now on DVD