The Serpent is an occasionally effective and stylish piece of filmmaking.
The Serpent could be seen as proof that the French love affair with film noir is alive and well. The story of a fashion photographer, Vincent (Yvan Attal), whose life is torn apart by an old classmate with a grievance contains all the elements that made that genre so attractive to the New Wave: the dark underbelly of bourgeois society, corruption, sex, revenge, betrayal and murder.
But while French filmmakers from Godard to Besson have taken that most American genre and given it a Gallic twist, there is something confused about The Serpent. Based on a novel (Plender) by the British writer Ted Lewis, the film not only looks but breathes like an Anglo Saxon.
As the plot becomes increasingly unbelievable, loose ends are hastily tied and story gives way to Action Man dramatics, it is unclear if this is an homage to American cinema or a showreel for American producers. That aside, The Serpent is an occasionally effective and stylish piece of filmmaking, capturing both the gloss and grime of the best thrillers, and delivering the odd shock as well.