Mesrine: Parts 1 and 2 DVD
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Directed by Jean-Francois Richet
Produced in 2008
Main Language - French with English subtitles
James Oliver acclaims Vincent Cassell's towering lead performance in this exhilarating double-header detailing the rise and fall of an audacious villain.
For French citizens of a certain age, 'Jacques Mesrine' is a name as potent as that of The Kray Twins on this side of the channel. The most audacious villain of his generation, with a taste for publicity, he played out a decade-long crime wave on the front pages until the Gendarmerie finally stopped him in a hail of bullets.
This epic diptych recounts his ascent (Killer Instinct) and comeuppance (Public Enemy No.1); beginning in Algeria, Private Mesrine is a reluctant part of his country's brutal counter-insurgency strategy. Back home, he forsakes bourgeois routine for a life of crime; when the heat gets too much, he high-tails it to Canada and even grander misbehaviour.
By part two, he's back in France and ever more daring: he escapes from a court room by taking the judge hostage. Increasingly obsessed with his reputation, he starts taking dangerous risks. And the police draw ever closer.
It's easy to see why Mesrine achieved near folk hero status. Vincent Cassel's towering performance highlights his unpredictable charisma and there's no denying his panache: robbing two banks on the same street in succession or returning to the maximum security prison he's just escaped from to rescue his friends (surely the best action sequence of the year.)
Yet the films refuse to glorify him. Mesrine's charm barely conceals a vicious streak that sees him pull a gun on his pregnant wife and brutally murder defenceless men. As the films progress, he becomes increasingly delusional, inventing spurious justifications for his crimes.
Throughout both films the political climate that shaped Mesrine is emphasised: the legacy of the Nazi occupation, the colonial retreat from Algeria and subsequent nationalist movements. By part two, he's even comparing himself to the Baader-Meinhof gang, arguing that he too is a revolutionary, battling a repressive state.
If that sounds altogether too high-minded, it's worth noting that above all, these films are superb examples of action cinema. Director Jean-François Richet stages them with the confidence and élan of Michael Mann at his best. This is exhilarating filmmaking and highly recommended.
James Oliver on 21st December 2009
Author of 147 reviews
A terrific double-header containing both parts of Jean-Francois Richet's Mesrine, chronicling the violent, exciting life of the notorious French bank-robber, Jacques Mesrine. Vincent Cassel dominates both as the eponymous anti-hero, prowling and charismatic.
The first half, 'Killer Instinct', takes its subtitle from the self-aggrandising memoir he penned from his cell and is packed with action and thrills as Mesrine climbs the criminal career ladder, including a stand-out prison-break sequence.
By the second part, Mesrine is 'Public Enemy Number One' in both France and Canada and the story careens to its inevitable end in the bullet strewn streets of Paris.
Inevitable comparisons are to be made with Scarface and Michael Mann's recent Dillinger biopic 'Public Enemies', and Mesrine: Parts 1 and 2 make admirable companions.
Length: 243 mins
Cat No: MP909D
Format: DVD Colour
- 2 discs.
by Barry Forshaw on 18th January 2010
This uncompromising French gangster film arrives festooned with praise, and has already evoked comparisons with the crime epics of Coppola and Scorsese. The two films ... Read on
This uncompromising French gangster film arrives festooned with praise, and has already evoked comparisons with the crime epics of Coppola and Scorsese. The two films which combine to tell this lacerating story are both fascinating examples of the genre, but also a provocative examination of the nature of celebrity - something that the violent and charismatic Mesrine himself cultivated. Of course, films such as this stand or fall on the strength of the performance of the leading man, and here Vincent Cassel delivers the portrayal of a lifetime. Hide
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