If this film were made by Hollywood you would be able to predict the whole film from just the basic outline. An average guy going through a bitter divorce finds his life turned upside down by a mysterious tormentor baring a grudge. Pretty average, seen it all before type of stuff. Here we are given a French twist, some very low-tech detective work and end up with a neat film noir with great performances and not much else.
It’s not an original idea — the film borrows from the likes of Frantic and The Fugitive on a number of occasions — but before you think this is an homage to Harrison Ford, the film it is most reminiscent of is this year’s best thriller, Tell No One. That was another French film that excelled thanks to a tighter script and excellent direction, whereas this film’s main flaw is not knowing who to focus on. The Serpent of the title would make a great character, but then so would the fallible hero — and this film tries to give us both.
Tell No One didn’t hide its American aspirations; it couldn’t. The fact that it was based on an American novel and wonderfully translated to a continental setting meant that that film was easily accessible, with a distinctive flair. Le Serpent feels a little forced and toned down in comparison, as if the filmmakers knew the story was overly familiar and needed to remain distant for the sake of it. All very strange given that the source material is a novel by British writer Ted Lewis, who was also responsible for the seminal Get Carter.
This is not a bad film. However, the leads a very impressive and the children do some great work early on. There are a couple of unnecessary strands running throughout, and one glaring plot hole that could have wrapped up the film in under 30 minutes if closely examined. But those problems don’t really detract from a solid cinematic outing — perhaps this is a case where a Hollywood remake wouldn’t be too unwelcome. Mr Ford might want to pass if offered the role — I don’t think escaping from pursuing police officers on the number 38 using a free bus pass would be appropriate — and Mr Stallone would be best served by switching his phone off!