Edinburgh International Film Festival

Le Serpent (2006)

Starring: Yvan Attal, Clovis Cornillac, Pierre Richard, Simon Abkarian, Jean-Claude Bouillon

Directed by: Eric Barbier

Rating: 1 2 3 and a half

Clovis Cornillac in psychological thriller Le Serpent

On the surface, fashion photographer Vincent Mandel (Yvan Attal) seems to have it all. Handsome (in that dark-haired, big-nosed way only French blokes can carry off) and wealthy, he has a successful, glamorous career, a beautiful wife and two cute kids. A shame, then, that he's going through a messy divorce and his wife is about to whisk his kids away to Germany. But if he thought that was bad, he ain't seen nothing yet. For unbeknownst to him, Vincent's card has been marked by an opportunistic blackmailer, Joseph Plender (Clovis Cornillac). And unfortunately for Vincent, it's not just money Plender is after: it's revenge.

To give away any more of the plot of this sinuously twisted thriller would be a crime in itself. Suffice it to say that Vincent makes a huge mistake when he lets Plender into his life: think Single White Female or Fatal Attraction with a bloke.

In fact, beneath the cool French façade and the fug of Gaulois cigarette smoke, Le Serpent is surprisingly Hollywood-esque – expect a remake starring John Cusack any day soon. But that doesn't stop it being a classy example of your classic psychological thriller: taut, edgy and full of unexpected kinks in the plot. With fine performances from Attal as the victim turned hunter and Cornillac as the cold-blooded, single-minded villain who yet harbours a fatal weakness, this is a film in which no-one is entirely guilt-free. Be sure your sins will find you out – and when they do, get ready to run...

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