Mesrine Part 1: Killer Instinct (2008)
"L'instinct de mort" (original title)

R  |   |  Action, Biography, Crime  |  22 October 2008 (France)
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The story of french gangster Jacques Mesrine, before he was called Public Enemy N°1.


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Florence Thomassin ...
Michel Duchaussoy ...
Pierre André Mesrine - le père de Jacques Mesrine
Myriam Boyer ...
La mère de Jacques Mesrine
Abdelhafid Metalsi ...
Ahmed - le proxénète
Le milliardaire
Deano Clavet ...
Roger André
Mustapha Abourachid ...
Le harki
Sofiane Benrazzak ...
Le Fellagah #1 (as Sophiane Benrezzak)


Mesrine: Killer Instinct -- the first of two parts -- charts the outlaw odyssey of Jacques Mesrine (Vincent Cassel), the legendary French gangster of the 1960s and 1970s who came to be known as French Public Enemy No. 1 and The Man of a Thousand Faces. Infamous for his bravado and outrageously daring prison escapes, Mesrine carried out numerous robberies, kidnappings and murders in a criminal career that spanned continents until he was shot dead in 1979 by France's notorious anti-gang unit. Thirty years after his death, his infamy lives on. Mesrine was helped along the way by beautiful and equally reckless Jeanne Schneider (Cécile de France), a Bonnie to match his Clyde. Mesrine made up his own epic, between romanticism and cruelty, flamboyance and tragedy. Written by Music Box Films

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Plot Keywords:

mesrine | gangster | france | epic | murder | See All (95) »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong brutal violence, some sexual content and language | See all certifications »

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Release Date:

22 October 2008 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Mesrine Part 1: Killer Instinct  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Opening Weekend:

£135,999 (UK) (7 August 2009)


$551,660 (USA) (25 February 2011)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Howard Shore was set to score the two Mesrine films before Marco Beltrami and Marcus Trumpp stepped in. See more »


When Mesrine & Mercier are standing on a the roof of the building in Montreal, you can see cars/trucks/vans on the street, you can clearly tell they are modern vehicles and not ones from the '70s when this is supposed to take place. See more »


Featured in Gangstars (2009) See more »


L'appareil a sous
Written and performed by Serge Gainsbourg
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User Reviews

The French Clyde Barrow
17 November 2010 | by (Birmingham, England) – See all my reviews

It is true that Jacques Mesrine (Vincent Cassel) was France's public enemy number one during the 60s and 70s. It is also true that he murdered several people, robbed banks, repeatedly escaped from prison, and basically did all the things that legendary criminals aspire to do. But to think of him as just another criminal would be an unreasonable caricature.

In this first half of the notorious gangster's life, director Jean-Francois Richet evinces the louche charm of the French criminal underworld in an effort to depict Jacques in a sympathetic light.

After a troubling time soldiering in the Algerian War, Jacques returns to Paris, where before long his sense of dissatisfaction takes charge of him and he accepts a friend's offer of 'off-the-book work', i.e. crime.

He is introduced to Guido (Gerard Depardieu), the head of a right-wing terrorist group operating in France's underworld. Guido recruits him, but warns that 'In our business, you don't win'. Depardieu plays his role with quiet brilliance. His acting is understated, yet he manages to be eerily menacing.

While on holiday Jacques, in a manner that would rival a James Bond-style seduction, beguiles then later marries his Spanish wife, Sofia (Elena Anaya). His sojourn is curtailed, however, when he goes back to Paris to murder the Arab pimp of a former lover.

That Jacques is a ruthless, relentless recidivist is never for one moment hidden. He may be a gangster, who violently casts aside his wife for his friends, but this is a man of principle, albeit criminal principle. He steals only from banks because, in his words, they have enough money to allow it; he never kills a person if they are unarmed; and he fulfills his promise to liberate his ex-prison inmates once he has successfully escaped himself. It is precisely these paradoxes which never quite allow you to feel that he is completely worthless.

He is finally jailed (on the first of several occasions) for a botched bank robbery. When he is released, he makes an attempt to 'go straight'. However, he is easily lured back and teams up with a new muse, Jeanne (Cecile De France), who displays a similar adroitness for crime. Jacques is now a celebrity, admired by the press, but demonised by the authorities.

The film's director claimed that only Cassel could have embodied this role. It is indeed the sheer magnetism of Cassel's portrayal that compels you to watch the second instalment.

7 of 10 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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