Mesrine: Part One
Director: Jean-Francois Richet
Starring: Vincent Cassel, Gerard Depardieu, Cecile De France
In the first film of this two-part biopic, Vincent Cassel delivers a striking performance as Jacques Mesrine, the notorious French bank robber and murderer. Mesrine is a complex character; charismatic and sociopathic.
This is a man who killed in cold blood on numerous occasions, yet remained a celebrated media figure at the time of his death - largely thanks to his talent for self publicity and anti-capitalist assertions.The film opens with a scene set in 1979, depicting the final moments of Mesrine's life just before he was publicly assassinated. The action then goes back in time, showing a traumatised Mesrine returning home from the Algerian War, and going on to chart his brutal rise through the criminal underworld. By the end of the film he is firmly established as Public Enemy No.1, a status which, by all accounts, he revels in.
The film is based on memoirs written by Mesrine in prison (L'Instinct de Mort) and is gripping, gritty stuff. The pace is brisk, the action is potent and Mesrine is an intelligent and entirely ruthless protagonist. A weighty Gerard Depardieu is very good as Guido, an early mentor and similarly flawed individual, whose allegiance and life choices are also governed by a gangster moral code. At just under two hours long, this film is entirely engrossing. Mesrine's audacious (and successful) escape from a high-security Montreal prison is perhaps the most mesmerising of many intense scenes. While things do seem to end on a rather abrupt note, this nonetheless leaves you eagerly anticipating part two.