“In the Shadow of Iris” is a tight and twisty French thriller about a kidnapping gone wrong.
Sexy casting and a taste of kink dress up this tale that begins conventionally, throws its first sleight-of-hand trick at us, and saves a few more for the third act.
Iris has lunch at a fancy Paris restaurant with her older banker husband, Antoine. She steps out to have a smoke while he pays the bill. He comes out into the rain and she’s vanished.
As Antoine (Jalil Lespert, who also directed) frantically searches the place, calls her cell and starts to panic, she (Charlotte Le Bon) turns up — at a garage. Money changes hands. Max (Romain Duris) ties her up, and we start to see the scheme that’s afoot.
The ransom demand is what makes Antoine call the cops (Camille Cottin, Adel Bencherif). As they start to dig in, we start to puzzle this thing out with them. What’s really going on here?
“A woman can’t disappear in the middle of the day without someone seeing her,” the captain (Cottin) muses (in French with English subtitles), “unless she PLANNED it.”
The cops stake out the ransom payout, things go wrong and the circle of suspects widen. Max the mechanic grapples with why he’s been brought into all this, and the plot thickens.
Director Lespert (“Yves St. Laurent” was his) keeps the story compact, even as he and his co-writers muddy the waters and clutter the lives we look in on. Max is divorced, behind on child support and not the most reliable babysitter The cops have complicated sex lives, as does almost everybody else.
Flashbacks start to unravel the story, but not quickly. Oh no.
I like the battle of wits that sets in among the various protagonists, underestimating each other, under or over confident at every turn.
Duris (“All the Money in the World”) is rough-hewn enough to suggest a man who has struggled in menial jobs, and with life, leaning on native cunning that he may not possess.
Le Bon (“The Hundred Foot Journey”) is quite good at giving us a poker-faced enigma, and is a reminder that Paris is lousy with gorgeous, long-haired model-thin French brunettes.
Lespert the actor lets us see the schemer given to panic in Antoine, and matches up nicely with the other principals.
It doesn’t play entirely fair, and some of the “clutter” slows it down, here and there. But rare is the thriller that keeps tripping you up all the way to the closing credits. That makes this “Shadow” worth shining a little light on.
MPAA Rating: TV-MA, violence, nudity, sex, profanity, smoking
Cast: Romain Duris, Jalil Lespert, Charlotte Le Bon, Adel Bencherif, Camille Cottin and Hélène Barbry
Credits: Directed by Jalil Lespert, script by Andrew Bovell, Jérémie Guez and Jalil Lespert. A Netflix/Universal video release.
Running time: 1:39