Mesrine: Parts 1 and 2 View large image
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Film Details

Directed by: Jean-Francois Richet

Produced: 2008

Countries & Regions: Canada, France

DVD Details

Certificate: 15

Length: 243 mins

Format: DVD

Region: Region 2

Released: 25 January 2010

Cat No: MP909D

Extras:
Languages(s): French
Interactive Menu
Scene Access

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Mesrine: Parts 1 and 2

Cast: Samuel Le Bihan , Gerard Depardieu , Michel Duchaussoy , Vincent Cassel , Gerard Lanvin , Mathieu Amalric , Elena Anaya , Olivier Gourmet , Ludivine Sagnier , Cecile De France , Anne Consigny , Georges Wilson , Roy Dupuis , Abdelhafid Metalsi , Gilles Lellouch , Myriam Boyer , Florence Thomassin , Gilbert Sicotte

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Both instalments of the acclaimed two-part biopic based on the autobiography of notorious French gangster Jacques Mesrine. Born in 1936,... Read More

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Both instalments of the acclaimed two-part biopic based on the autobiography of notorious French gangster Jacques Mesrine. Born in 1936, Mesrine (Vincent Cassell) transformed himself from a middle-class Algerian War veteran to a career criminal of international notoriety, before eventually earning the dubious honour of being named Public Enemy Number One by the French government. Gerard Depardieu, Mathieu Amalric, Ludivine Sagnier and Cecile De France co-star.

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.

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.

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