Mesrine: Part 2

Public Enemy Number One

Viewed – 27 Jan 2010  Blu-ray

Set a few years after the climax of Killer Instinct, we meet Jacques Mesrine (Vincent Cassel) now more of a celebrity and outlaw than the gangster, understudy of the past.  Mesrine is now his own man, and is once again committing bank robberies, living life on the edge and getting his name in the press.  It’s not long though before he’s back in court, awaiting sentencing and charming the pants off the jury.  Yet his crimes are undeniable, and even though he escapes custody several times, he’s eventually banged up and looking at a twenty year stretch, where he pens an autobiography and befriends an inmate with plans of escaping once again.

Vincent Cassel’s portrayal this time around of this larger-than-life character is much more showy and charismatic, bringing to life a criminal you can’t help but admire, despite the ability to cold-bloodedly execute a reporter, turn against the women in his life or alienate himself from friends due to outlandish scheme after outlandish scheme.  You get the impression that Mesrine had ideas very much above his station, and as he began to believe his own hype, you realise his days are numbered. 

Jean-François Richet’s energetic and (surprisingly) even more entertaining follow-up to Killer Instinct is every bit as well executed as that movie, and is packed with powerful performances and edge-of-the-seat tension.  This time around the man behind the myth is more thoroughly explored, and scenes such as the prison visit from his daughter show the emotion and the good person behind the bravado.  It’s obvious Mesrine was not an evil man, and as an exploration of not just a criminal but as a person, this one can not be faulted.

Verdict:  5 /5

Mesrine: Part 1

Killer Instinct

Viewed – 23 Jan 2010  Blu-ray

Vincent Cassel could probably be called France’s answer to Robert DeNiro, with a lengthy career in some of the country’s biggest (and often) most controversial movies.  Many will probably however know him from David Cronenberg gangster flick Eastern Promises, as well as Oceans Twelve & Thirteen.  He’s definitely one of my favourite foreign actors.  This time, in arguably his most high profile role, he plays the part of real-life career criminal Jacques Mesrine, a former soldier in the Algerian army who on returning home finds it difficult adjusting to a normal life living with his parents and holding down a day job, and is soon lewered into a life of crime, under the guidance of local gang boss Gerard Depardieu.

This first movie in the epic life of one of France’s most notorious criminals, plays as a straight forward gangster story as our anti-hero goes from heist to heist, bedding women, fathering children and being flung in and out of prison – all the time living on his witts.  Despite several instances where he tries to ‘go straight’, it’s not long before he’s involved in another crooked deal, and for me came across as a very ballsy, reckless man with little respect for anyone but himself.  Yet with Cassell, he still makes what should be an unpleasant character, likable, as he oozes charisma and screen presence in the grand tradition of Al Pacino out of The Godfather, a movie this most closely resembles.

Directed with skill and no end of style by Jean-François Richet, this is both absorbing and entertaining, that although violent at times, never reaches Goodfella’s territory, and is mostly restrained, which I think goes in its favour – this is a character piece afterall.  At times I did lose track as the years fly by, and even what country Mesrine was in sometimes was left a little vague, yet this has plenty of raw intensity, quality acting (including a very good Gerard Depardieu), and some powerful moments … leaving me thirsty for part 2.

Verdict:  4 /5