A hugely entertaining action vehicle for Vincent Cassel on fine form. One can't help but think of it in terms of its close comparitors: Michael Mann's Public Enemies, a biopic of American gangster John Dillinger, is still on general release; and Steven Soderbergh's Che (Part One) was playing on the screen in the next-door auditorium. Not only is this Mesrine a more entertaining character than both Depp's Dillinger and Benicio Del Toro's Che Guevara, the bipartite biopic is a more entertaining film. That's not to say it's better though.
In this first part, we are shown Mesrine the career criminal. He gets underway with little backstory or prompting, and plays out the film as an increasingly autonomous bank robber. There's no empire building, no examination of the criminal mind or relationships, peripheral or central. It's basically a cycle of robbery, jailbreak and swagger: a brisk, urban updating of the gentleman highwayman.
This makes for a punchy criminal escapade, nicely shot in well-judged industry-standard-Greengrass-cam by Robert Ganz and lovingly charted with well-dated design by Emile Ghigo. Cécile de France's moll Jeanne is as subordinate as Marion Cotillard's Billie to Depp's Dillinger. I would have liked to have seen more of Elena Anaya's Sofia, both actor and character, who promised to be a significant figure in the Mesrine mythology but goes the same way as even the mighty Depardieu. By the end I was looking forward to the second instalment to develop something a little more revealing, or at least complex. 7/10
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