Film Review: Mesrine: Public Enemy No.1

I was so looking forward to this and I decided to watch this again at the Glasgow Film Theatre instead of the general cinema and it was worth the wait!

I was very fortunate to get a seat for Death Instinct as it was near the full house so I decide to go a little earlier to make sure I get a decent seat, this time there was many of the same faces who were there 3 weeks previous but this time screen was only half full. I’m not the tallest guy in the world but at one point though I thought I was going to have the ultimate nightmare of someone miles taller than myself sit in front of me and despite the person sitting down me still can’t see. Luckily I didn’t have to suffer but what did nearly make me sick was his partner’s perfume was that strong I was the one getting the funny looks like I didn’t take good care of hygiene, I was just scared to move.

Okay, I forgot the review, this was another fantastic piece of movie making. It’s always hard to keep the momentum going into a second movie especially wonderfully brutal Death instinct, but Richet pulls it off. Public Enemy No.1 deals with the last 6 years of Jacque Mesrine life, it’s a gripping slightly darker movie. There’s plenty of violence in part 2, but the tone of the movie slows down slightly as Mesrine ego just keeps growing and growing and his circus acting with the French media steps up a level.

“There are no heroes in crime!” – Mesrine yearns .

The movie has something for all Media circus shows as anti-hero stature, daring and reckless escapes from the Police (including one by kidnapping a judge using a planted gun left in a toilet). Mocking the French Judicial system by showing off in the court dock, you also see glimpses of his famous Paris Match Interview. He  even able to share a glass of bubbly with his arch nemesis Broussard and he strike a pose for the camera man and jokes about their rivalry and when he’ll escape again, their cat and mouse chases get even tenser as Mesrine escapes Broussard won’t be that far behind him.

The last six years of Mesrine’s life for his story’s sake are the most important as during his time at Le Sante France’s infamous Prison he write’s his autobiography Death Instinct and meets Francois Besse played by Mathieu Amalric (bad guy Dominic Greene in Quantum of Solace) who gives a different perspective to crime than Mesrine. Besse was more interested in draining the system of all its got to Mesrine’s bringing it down in a bloody battle, Almaric played his part perfectly as a slightly paranoid but money obsessed criminal. Ludivine Sagnier plays Mesrine girlfriend Sylvie and played the role fantastically and a lot more convincing than Mesrine’s Girlfriend Jeane, a breath of fresh air. Both characters were done on what they were asked to do considering the amount of screen time Cassel had .

It’s amazing what a decade can do to a person when it comes to political views. In the 1960’s Mesrine stance was right wing and at the time leaning towards extremism but in the 1970’s through the people he met and befriended the pendulum swung towards the left and you see this through his friendship with charlie Bauer a left wing radical leader. During a kidnapping, Mesrine uses  PLO  as a stance to kidnap a rich old man to ransom who couldn’t care less if he was killed or not. One thing we do learn is not to piss Mesrine off in the press when he abducts a right wing reporter and brutally tortures than man, at times a very disturbing scene which had to be made to show the level of mentality of Jacques Mesrine.

What I do like about this movie is the ending and the build up to the ending. When you go and see a film especially a biopic or a movie with a predictable ending the ending of that particular movie may not excite you as much as you know what’s to happen, with this movie they took it a different way. In movie one it starts with Mesrine’s assassinators about to kill him and Public Enemy no.1  starting with the aftermath the start of movie 1, so giving you the feeling “what the hell happened to get to this point?!” giving you the sense I must watch on and see how  Mesrine ends in a bloody death.

Mesrine: Public Enemy No.1 is an engrossing dark gangster epic that even De Niro or Pacino or any Gangster actor veterans would be proud of to create.This is France’s own Scarface and no matter if you agreed with Jacques Mesrine and what he did but what it does show that the police can be as ruthless as nasty as the criminals.

★★★★|Paul Devine

Crime, History | France, 2008 | 18 | 28th August 2009 (UK) | Momentum Pictures | Dir:Jean-François Richet | Vincent Cassel, Ludivine Sagnier, Mathieu Amalric

Originally posted at The People Movies | 8th September 2009

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