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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Vincent Cassel
Ludivine Sagnier
Mathieu Amalric
Samuel Le Bihan.
Directors
Jean-Francois Richet.
Screenwriters
Jean-Francois Richet
Abdel Raouf Dafri.
Running Time
133 minutes

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Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1
The second part of the French gangster epic


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Plot
The later career (1974-’79) of French outlaw Jacques Mesrine (Cassell), covering the bank robberies which made him France’s most wanted criminal, his partnership with a fellow prison escapee (Amalric), his relationship with free spirit Sylvie (Sagnier) and his violent death.


Review
Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1
Part Two of Jean-françois Richet’s epic-length biopic opens with the bloody aftermath of the set-up scene of part one, as Mesrine, riddled with bullets, is pulled out of his car. What happened to his girlfriend, and her dog? Who was responsible for the hit? How is Mesrine’s chin-bearded flic nemesis Broussard (Olivier Gourmet) involved? These questions simmer — a major clue was embedded in Gérard Depardieu’s final scene in part one — until the climax, which restages the first film’s prologue from the point of view of the gunmen stalking Mesrine. There’s also a clever joke about the array of period facial hairstyles on show throughout both films, as the dodgy wigs we took for production shortcuts turn out to be actual dodgy wigs worn by the fugitives.

If Part One was a series of snapshots of formative experiences and random crimes, Part Two picks up from Mesrine’s sense of being victimised by a society even more brutal than he is. After spells in tough prisons, Mesrine becomes more interested in a kind of counterculture rebellion (allying himself with the Red Brigades or the Baader-Meinhof Group) than simple crookedness and makes murky political connections. However, this pose is constantly challenged: in a remarkable sequence, Mesrine courts popularity by kidnapping a slumlord millionaire (Georges Wilson). The wily old man haggles on the grounds that the rest of his life won’t be long enough to be worth the ransom Mesrine has demanded, then punctures the gangster’s pride by insisting a real revolutionary would just kill an oppressor, not ask for money.

Vincent Cassel undergoes a De Niro-style transformation from the lean young spiv of part one to a paunchy, shallow, angrily smug celebrity bandit, and goes through an array of moustaches as Mesrine tries to keep in tune with a world that changes whenever he’s banged up. It’s a worthy addition to the roster of great gangster performances — sexy, violent, charming, petulant, paranoid and almost tragic, with a sense that Mesrine always knew he was only a gadfly, and could be swatted at any point by authorities who were no more committed to playing by the rules than he was. Ludivine Sagnier, ethereally alluring, has a less vivid ‘Bonnie’ character to play than Cecile De France did in part one, but the film pulls together all its developing threads and pays off in spades, arguably bettering what Steven Soderbergh or Quentin Tarantino managed with similar canvases.


Verdict
An instant gangster classic.


Reviewed by Kim Newman

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1
Empire Star Rating

RE: RE:

Director:rancois Richet Screenwriters: aouf Dafri, Jean-Francois Richet Starring:t Cassel, Ludivine Sagnier, Mathieu Amalric, Gerard Lanvin, Samuel Le Bihan Synopsis After nearly two decades of legendary criminal feats, from multiple bank robberies and to prison breaks, public enemy number one Jacques Mesrine (Cassel) was gunned down by the French police in Paris. Review A few weeks ago, the great French actor Vincent Cassel impressed us in his portrayal of the factu... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by R W at 21:01, 09 September 2009 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

If there’s one thing the French do well, it’s knocking out a good action sequence in a movie. You only have to wrap your peepers around stuff like /i], ] or One that Monsieur Francais knows his oignons when it comes to constructing a finger-chewingly tense chase scene or a tautly edited shootout.   Such mastery of nail-bitery is the second-biggest reason to watch the Mesrine films. They're little more than a series of episodes in Mesrine’s life, with little to connect them or explain ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by David Somerset at 11:48, 03 September 2009 | Report This Post


RE: RE:

Seems my local Cineworld ain't showing it, even though they had Killer Instinct out for 3 bloody weeks!!! ... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 06:21, 29 August 2009 | Report This Post


RE:

L: McQueen If viewed together, this is the best film of the year with a performance by Cassel which just confirms his status as the finest actor working outside Hollywood. A lazy Empire review to even mention Tarantino or Soderberg, makes you wonder if Kim Newman has even seen these movies, maybe he is still locked up in his dungeon? With a total running time of almost 4 hours, you would be forgiven for thinking that this will drag, but the movies move at a cracking pace, sometimes too muc... More

Posted by demoncleaner at 10:35, 21 August 2009 | Report This Post


If viewed together, this is the best film of the year with a performance by Cassel which just confirms his status as the finest actor working outside Hollywood. A lazy Empire review to even mention Tarantino or Soderberg, makes you wonder if Kim Newman has even seen these movies, maybe he is still locked up in his dungeon? With a total running time of almost 4 hours, you would be forgiven for thinking that this will drag, but the movies move at a cracking pace, sometimes too much, some action sc... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by McQueen at 08:48, 21 August 2009 | Report This Post


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