Split across six episodes, La Mante (The Mantis in English) is a French crime thriller boasting a well written script and decent acting but doesn’t really stand out from other crime thrillers out there. The violence is brutally depicted though and some of the scenes are genuinely cringe inducing. The acting from the talented cast is the highlight here though and Jeanne (Carole Bouquet) who plays the notorious Mantis steals the show with her bone-chilling performance. It’s a shame that toward the end of the series La Mante loses as much momentum as it does, as the first half in particular is really well done.
The story begins in France after a series of brutal murders lead to a notorious serial killer known as The Mantis captured and jailed for life. When a copycat killer surfaces years later and continues the reign of terror she started, the police are at a loss for leads. Sergeant Feracci (Pascal Demolon) brings in Detective Damien (Fred Testot), whose mother is none other than The Mantis herself, to lead the investigation. Together, Damien and his mother begrudgingly work together to track down the copycat killer. There’s some good twists here too which is good as the majority of this six part story is unremarkable, playing out as a standard thriller. The way the series leads you through various different suspects, keeping the killer’s identity a secret until the last episode, is surprisingly effective though and hides a lot of the formulaic plot issues haunting this French show. Once the killer is revealed in the last episode, La Mante loses a lot of the momentum it builds for itself, ending a little more sombrely than it should.
Whether it’s a consistent stylistic choice for French shows or just something La Mante and The Frozen Dead have in common, the editing between scenes resulting in a smooth fade helps give a distinct artistic feel to the episodes. There are numerous examples of great composition here too and coupled with an interesting use of lighting, La Mante is at least an artistic thriller, even if the plot feels a little lacklustre and formulaic at times. La Mante is certainly not for the faint-heart either. The violence is visceral, brutal and oftentimes shocking. The clever use of multiple camera angles and unnerving sound during these segments helps to elevates the tension and unsettling pedigree of these scenes with one in particular depicting a man stuck in a washing machine, the highlight of the show. There are other little examples like this dotted throughout the series and the way La Mante keeps the mystery going until the final episode whilst continuously weaving twists and wicked violence throughout at least makes La Mante a decent crime thriller, even if it doesn’t necessarily do anything particularly original or different.
La Mante is a good but largely unoriginal crime thriller. The violence and plot twists are good although the acting is the one thing that really stands out here. The characters are well acted and Carole Bouquet in particular nails her unnerving character’s persona. Alongside the equally great Fred Testot, the two have great chemistry on-screen and drive the narrative forward. La Mante does lose steam late on though and although the plot might not be particularly original, the twists are well implemented and complimented by some decent camera work throughout. Those looking for something outstanding in this genre might be left wanting but as a run of the mill crime thriller, La Mante ticks all the boxes, even if it fails to innovative beyond the confines of this genre.