Jalil Lespert’s Iris is an entertaining thriller loosely based on Hideo Nakata’s novel Chaos. Australian screenwriter Andrew Bovell who penned A Most Wanted Man and Lantana, wrote the original adaptation of the Japanese film, with Lespert and his Yves Saint Laurent co-writer, Jérémie Guez, tackling the French version of the script. Iris is smart and sassy with a well-paced plot which keeps the audience on its toes, at least for the first two-thirds of the film. This is mainly due to the astute casting of Lespert himself as a high-flying banker whose wife is kidnapped and held to ransom, the versatile Romain Duris as the hapless kidnapper, and Charlotte Le Bon as the abducted woman. Unfortunately as the plot thickens, credibility is pushed to the limits and events take a predictable turn.
Antoine Doriot (Lespert) is enjoying lunch with his wife who then mysteriously disappears while he is settling the bill. Max Lopez, (Duris) a debt-ridden garage owner is holding Claudia (Le Bon) hostage in a swanky Parisan apartment from where he sends Antoine photos of his bound and traumatised wife. The police are called in to investigate and discover the Doriot’s marriage was far from happy while Max discovers respectable banker Antoine has a secret vice which raises questions over who exactly is this crime’s real victim.
Lespert’s last directorial full length feature was the much lauded biopic Yves Saint Laurent and he clearly has a talent for drawing great performances from his actors. Duris, who excelled in Francois Ozon’s The New Girlfriend, is almost unrecognisable as the gruff, grubby mechanic who slowly realises he is being played for a fool, while Le Bon switches effortlessly from unwilling partner in crime to sexy dominatrix. And therein lies one of Iris‘s main weaknesses. The sadomasochistic subtext to the whole plot is irritatingly coy and unconvincing. The dark side to Antoine’s character is reduced to a couple of relatively tame, cliched scenes which fail to convey how much he is in thrall to his sexual impulses. And while casting against type can reveal some interesting surprises, Camille Cottin as the detective leading the criminal investigation is an odd choice. Cottin was the star of last year’s box office hit Conasse Princesse des coeurs, about a young French woman who goes to England set on marrying Prince Harry. Shot entirely on hidden cameras, the film follows Cottin as she tries to climb the fence surrounding Buckingham Palace or joins in the Horse Guards parade. Understandably, it’s difficult to see her here as a serious detective, gun in hand stalking a dangerous criminal. Overall, a pacy thriller which runs out of steam ending with a disappointing whimper.