In "Pe'ril," the latest inept French thriller, David (Christophe Malavoy), guitar teacher to the nubile Vivianne Tombsthay (Anais Jeanneret), is having an affair with the sexy Julia Tombsthay (Nicole Garcia) behind the back of the volatile Graham Tombsthay (Michel Piccoli).
Well, it's a messy situation, and it gets messier -- soon enough, David is involved with a hit man (Richard Bohringer) and a voyeur (Ane'mone, and I kid you not). Unfortunately, director Michel Deville never develops any heat here -- "Pe'ril" is an erotic movie that's only intermittently sexy, a thriller that only thrills by rote. Deville is a bear for close-ups -- of caressing hands, of cleavage, of coffee cups, of pretty much anything -- but while he's able to achieve some startling effects with this strategy (particularly in the love scenes), he wears it out quickly. And he never uses his close-ups to draw you into the action. The movie is marred by the gimmicky irises that open and close each scene -- they're toys in a movie that's almost never playful otherwise.
"Pe'ril" has two attractive stars: Malavoy is vividly tentative with his long nose and omnipresent raincoat; Garcia exudes the patina of a rich woman's carelessness, and she's sly in the way she tips us off to her lunacy.
But in the end, "Pe'ril" ends up being to movies what Gitanes are to cigarettes. What can you say about a thriller whose press kit kicks off with an obscure passage from Baudelaire? Pe'ril, at the Circle West End, is rated R and contains nudity in sexual situations and violence.