Mesrine: Public Enemy No 1 Part Two
Director: Jean-François Richet
Starring: Vincent Cassel, Ludvine Sagnier, Mathieu Amalric, Olivier Gourmet
The first part of this stylish biopic was gripping, intense and altogether engaging. The second instalment, Mesrine: Public Enemy No 1 Part Two exceeds any expectations thrown down by its predecessor and delivers an altogether absorbing piece of cinema.
The action this time focuses on the last 10 years of the French gangster's short but epic life, and a magnetic Vincent Cassel is once again in exuberant form as Jacques Mesrine. He is now firmly established as France's most wanted man and with this notoriety comes an even greater arrogance. Mesrine's anger at General Pinochet's military coup in Chile making the front pages, ahead of his latest escapade, goes some way towards demonstrating just how self-absorbed the man has become.
An increasingly theatrical air surrounds Mesrine's every action: he poses for media photographs with the ease and aplomb of a professional ("That's a keeper, use it" he says of a particular shot), dons all manner of disguises in order to flaunt his cash in public, and views himself ever more as an anti-capitalist revolutionary. "I'm just robbing a bigger robber than myself...I exploit no one," he asserts in defence of all those bank heists. It is this heightened sense of self and introspective, increasingly crazed behaviour that contributes to his early demise. "Frankly, I don't think I'll get old" he predicts in one of many newspaper interviews given while on the run. And how right he is. The film ends as it began, amid a media frenzy, with Mesrine's bloodied body being lifted from his car after being gunned down by a flurry of police bullets on the streets of Paris.
Over the years, Mesrine's waistline has grown in line with his ego and despite his now rather bloated appearance, the enticing, dangerous charm remains as potent as ever. A mere curl of the lips and the women in his life are not just unable, but unwilling to resist him. Ludvine Sagnier plays Sylvia JeanJacquot, his romantic interest, who revels in their high-octane, glamorous lifestyle but also seems to really care about this troubled man. Similarly, it is his female lawyer who facilitates yet another highly audacious prison break, by smuggling in weapons for him.
For pure adrenaline-fueled, edge-of-the-seat action, this is the climactic point of the film. Mesrine teams up with fellow inmate Francois Besse (Mathieu Amalric) and together they stage a brazen, daylight escape, which, in terms of drama, is as nail-biting as it gets. The two then go on the run, traversing the French countryside and successfully managing to evade armies of policemen who comb the area meticulously, but to no avail. The film hurtles on, and as Commander Broussard (Mesrine's chief police nemesis) closes in on his man, the tension is relentless. Despite the ending being inevitable from the outset, Public Enemy No 1 still entirely captivates the attention of the viewer, taking them on a brisk, brutal, all-consuming journey and is well worth watching.