The story of the notorious French gangster Jacques Mesrine, with the focus on his life and death as France's Public Enemy No. 1 in the 1970s.The story of the notorious French gangster Jacques Mesrine, with the focus on his life and death as France's Public Enemy No. 1 in the 1970s.The story of the notorious French gangster Jacques Mesrine, with the focus on his life and death as France's Public Enemy No. 1 in the 1970s.
As his weight increases, so too do his risks. He starts a tradition of stealing from one bank then immediately stealing from another; he cheekily goes incognito to a police station to obtain information they have about him; and he even kidnaps a judge whilst on trial for yet another bank robbery.
It can't have been an easy thing for the director to capture or for Cassel to personify, but what is impressive about this modern-day Robin Hood is that no matter how bad he gets he is never quite an Al Capone or a John Dillinger. But it's not long before his inner Mr Hyde resurfaces – this time with catastrophic consequences.
Jacques arranges an interview with a policeman-turned-journalist, but it's a set-up, for Jacques confronts him about negative coverage he has given him. What ensues is a highly graphic display of violence. It proves to be one crime too far and prompts the minister of the interior to order police forces to hunt him down.
Jacques's vulnerability is exposed in a number of emotional scenes, especially one with his father. When questioned about why he does what he does, there is a heavily pregnant pause before a powerful soliloquy, 'I don't like laws I won't dream my life away, and I won't pass every store thinking: that'll cost me 10 months' work'.
The brilliance of these two films is that both flagrantly show Jacques's demise in their opening scene. However, you either ignore this fact or convince yourself it is not real; testimony no doubt to the allure of the main character and the manner in which his story his conveyed.
'Death is nothing to someone who knows how to live.' This matter-of-fact proclamation from Jacques sums up his philosophy from the beginning. Forget politics, forget justice, forget morality. None of these were his motives. Crime was the motive and an addiction to crime was his punishment. Jacques Mesrine always knew that once dead he would be 'guilty of nothing'. And I for one agree.
- Nov 17, 2010