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Mesrine Part 1: Killer Instinct (2008)

L'instinct de mort (original title)
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The story of french gangster Jacques Mesrine, before he was called Public Enemy N°1.


(book), (scenario) | 2 more credits »
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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

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Eva Green and Marion Cotillard were originally set for the roles ultimately taken by Ludivine Sagnier and Cécile De France in this and in Mesrine Part 2: Public Enemy #1 (2008). It is however unclear as to which actress would have played what role. See more »


At the Bonaventure metro station scene, when the metro arrives, a sound of the wheels screeching can be heard as the train stops. The Montreal metro has rubber wheels, so it normally stops silently. See more »


Featured in Maltin on Movies: Flipped (2010) See more »


Written by Gilberto Rojas Enriquez
Performed by Greg Moen et les Socquettes Blanches
See more »

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User Reviews

Surprisingly good gangster film
17 August 2011 | by (France) – See all my reviews

"Mesrine: Killer Instinct" is the first movie of a two-part saga on real-life gangster Jacques Mesrine. The second part is called "Mesrine: Public Enemy #1". I saw both of them in the theaters, and was blown away. I didn't know contemporary French cinema could actually make good (and serious) gangster movies. Well now it's done.

In real life, Jacques Mesrine is certainly the most famous gangster in France along with Albert Spaggiari whose life and criminal activities are also astonishing, and whose anti-hero Robin-Hood-like status in popular opinion is as strong. Naturally, both of these gangsters' heists and feats have been adapted on screen numerous times, in fairly disappointing movies, but "Mesrine: Killer Instinct" (let's just call it "Mesrine") is to this date the only film about one of these gangsters which truly is good and may actually stand the test of time. I don't think there will be another movie about Mesrine in a while, because it will be hard to top this one.

All you need to know about the plot is that it's about a real-life gangster known for his heists and numerous prison escapes, which made him a sort of cult anti-hero. Vincent Cassel as a rebel Mesrine with a strong personality is obviously great, as are all the main actors, who were already famous in francophone cinema and with reason. The movie follows Mesrine's adventures in Algeria, France, Spain, Quebec and the USA, making it a fun ride. It briefly addresses political issues of the Algerian War, Quebec independence and living conditions in federal prisons, making it somewhat of a historical film. The political issue actually culminates in the second part of the saga when Mesrine, in an attempt to glorify his image, tries to justify his actions with political strife, although truthfully he's just a very talented thief. The movie's pace is interesting throughout, and we get to see the first half of a gangster's life unravel as his notoriety gets stronger. I do have one criticism : the movie sometimes skips scenes important to the plot. In one scene he's about to rob a bank, and in the next he's in prison. There are many more examples like this throughout the movie and it's somewhat frustrating. I guess the filmmakers didn't feel it was necessary to show how he was caught, or they didn't have the budget, but I would have preferred 10 minutes more of film for a clearer continuity.

Some commentators have accused "Mesrine" of ripping off American gangster films. I personally fail to see how. This movie has a very French feeling to it, it's more raw and realistic, it doesn't rely on a majestic soundtrack, dark cinematography, or mobster stereotypes, the likes of "The Godfather", "The Untouchables", "Goodfellas", "Road to Perdition", "The Departed" or others. I love these American films which are all original in their own way, and "Mesrine"'s approach is just as different as each of these great films. I'd be more willing to compare "Mesrine" with another more recent (and great) French gangster film, "A Prophet", which bears the same typical French or European style.

Anyway, "Mesrine: Killer Instinct" is a great gangster film which I recommend to all. I prefer it to it's second part "Mesrine: Public Enemy #1" but one should see both of them.

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