Mesrine part 1: Killer Instinct & Mesrine part 2: Public Enemy #1 (2008)

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Director: Jean-Francois Richet

Cast: Vincent Cassel, Gerard Derpardieu, Cecile De France

An epic double feature crime drama, Mesrine tells the story of notorious ’60s and ’70s French criminal, Jacques Mesrine.

We are introduced to Mesrine’s special brand of moral schizophrenia right from the start, when, as a young soldier, he is confronted with the brutality of France’s war in Algeria.

Back in France, Mesrine tries to fit into normal society, but rapidly gets seduced by the lure of easy money and the gratuitous violence of the criminal underworld. A process of self delusional rationalisation follows with Mesrine’s public profile rising along with his notoriety.

Part 1 ends with Mesrine fleeing to Canada after several high profile robberies made him public enemy no 1 in France. Part 2 develops the ongoing dichotomy between his self styled pseudo- social revolutionary image and the failures in his personal life. Although the inevitable ending is alluded to at the beginning of part 1, the viewer is still gripped by the frantic pace (including some of the most daring prison escapes ever), until the final drawing of the curtain.

Part action thriller, part biographical exploration of an audacious character, Mesrine delivers over its 2 x 2 hour parts. Brilliant period depiction of the ’60s and ’70s together with a career defining performance by Vincent Cassel makes it a hugely enjoyable viewing experience.