Mesrine: Public Enemy No 1 Movie Review
In 1973, rampant criminal Jacques Mesrine (Cassel) has finally been captured by the cops but stages a daring courtroom escape with the help of his pal Charlie (Lanvin). He's soon back to his bank-robbing, executive-kidnapping ways, taunting the tenacious detective Broussard (Gourmet) even when he's arrested.
In prison he concocts an elaborate escape with fellow inmate Besse (Amalric), and the two go on another brazen crime-spree, meeting Mesrine's next wife Sylvie (Sagnier) along the way. But as Mesrine adopts the politics of Germany's Baader-Meinhof gang, the cops are closing in.
Once again, the film's outrageous stylishness keeps us watching, as Richet recreates the period with a remarkable attention to detail, using coarse touches to ground the chaotic shootouts and heists in reality. This film has the same snappy pace, leaping through the story and only giving us brief insight into the characters as it creates each set piece. But what set pieces they are!
Every sequence snaps with inventive energy, and the robberies, kidnappings and escapes are all utterly riveting in their outrageousness (Cassel insists they toned things down because the reality was too incredible). This half of the story actually stretches Cassel more, as Mesrine is paunchy and a bit crazed, always wearing ludicrous disguises and drifting deep into philosophy. This adds to his charismatic mystique, although it doesn't make him any more sympathetic.
The film is framed with Mesrine's death, which plays out in thrilling detail.
Like other scenes, it's a seriously brutal sequence of events, rendered by Richet on a big scale but also anchored in earthy authenticity. The standout supporting role this time belongs to the remarkable Amalric as a character who deserves his own film. And Sagnier is terrific as always. But they're only in orbit around Cassel as a man who saw himself as a Robin Hood figure, except that he kept all the money. "At least I can say I didn't waste my life," he says. Some of us might beg to differ.