Mesrine: Public Enemy #1: Bloated but fun—Movie

Much like the man himself, Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 is bloated, but still entertaining and jam-packed with enough action for several movies.

Created by the same team who directed and wrote Mesrine: Killer Instinct (Jean-François Richet and Abdel Raouf Dafri), Public Enemy begins with the shocking opening activities from the earlier film. Then we go back in time to see how Mesrine arrived at this point. Naturally this starts with yet another prison break.

That prison break sets the tone for much of Public Enemy. While fun to watch, much of Public Enemy concerns itself with Mesrine robbing banks in a variety of disguises, evading capture and breaking out of prison. This could become a bit monotonous if not for the sheer joy in which Vincent Cassel attacks the Mesrine role. We are also introduced to new characters who play an important part in the middle to end of Mesrine’s career. Olivier Gourmet as Le Commissaire Broussard is very good as the police official charged with capturing Mesrine. Matthieu Amalric turns in a creepily effective performance as François Besse, a well-known criminal in his own right who becomes friends with Mesrine during a stay in prison, breaks out of prison with him, and teams up with him for some sensational robberies and a kidnapping. The two eventually part company and Mesrine joins forces with Charly Bauer (Gérard Lanvin), an anarchist and extreme left winger. Lanvin is terrific as Mesrine’s partner in crime and political mentor. And finally, there is Ludivine Sagnier, who is utterly fabulous as the beautiful, audacious, vulnerable, Sylvie Jeanjacquot, Mesrine’s girlfriend/companion.

Cassel is magnificent in showing Mesrine’s complexities. He could be loyal to a fault, but mispronounce his name and watch out! He loved reading his own press, but pity the journalist who got it wrong. He wrote his autobiography while in prison to make sure his story was told the way he wanted to be portrayed. Was he really political? It’s highly doubtful, but he sure talked the talk. And as for sharing the spotlight–the scene in which he discovers he’s been shoved off page one in favor of a breaking story on the dictator, Pinochet, is hysterical.

While not as impactful as its predecessor, Mesrine: Killer Instinct, Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 is still must-see viewing, most especially for Vincent Cassel. His performance alone is worth the price of admission.

3 ½ nuggets out of 4.

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