Mesrine Part 2: Public Enemy #1 (2008) Poster

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Lands successfully between crime thriller, gangster saga and character study
youllneverbe26 September 2009

There is a short paragraph that opens both "Mesrine" films; the exact wording escapes me, but it says something like "no film can accurately portray the complexities of a human life". This seems to be a pre-emptive defense, as if Richet anticipates criticism for a lack of depth or some glaring omissions. After all, Jacques Mesrine is apparently still a famous name in France, and his public persona lives on. If even half his supposed exploits were true, the story would still be crying out for a definitive dramatisation. As such, Richet has wisely avoided making any real ethical judgements of Mesrine's character, focusing instead on the sex, violence and publicity that he thrived upon. But it's Vincent Cassel's committed and exuberant performance that develops this meat-and-potatoes content into an unbiased character study of excess and, over all, a very fine pair of movies.

"Mesrine" may not seem to be particularly even-handed at first because of the glamour, the wisecracks, and the endless charisma, all of which are drawn from the rich stylistic tradition of the Gangster Movie, and used very skilfully in its favour. The fast pace of the story ensures we are either seduced or repulsed by the central character, and rarely anywhere in between. Sympathy or pity is irrelevant, and he is too brutal and trigger-happy to be rooted for as a regular protagonist. The first film is the slicker of the two, and the more visually satisfying due to the wonderfully stylish recreation of early 60s Paris (and elsewhere). Cassel plays Mesrine with youthful vigour here. He's all style and brash confidence, as endearing a wiseguy as any of Scorcese's characters. It's "Goodfellas", in fact, that "Killer Instinct" is most reminiscent of, with its sharp-suited mobsters (including a brilliantly grizzled Gerard Depardieu) and episodic year-hopping narrative.

By the half-way point, Mesrine is still something of an enigma. It's only in "Public Enemy No. 1" that the pace slows down and we can see, through a few intimate and contemplative scenes, what he has sacrificed to live as a superlative criminal. "I wasn't much of a son, I'm not much of a father either." he says, while in disguise visiting his own ailing father in hospital. He gradually alienates his closest friends and accomplices by trying to maintain the outlandish public profile he cultivated, rambling pseudo-revolutionary politics to journalists and threatening to kill judges and destroy all maximum security prisons. The "Goodfellas" ensemble of the first part becomes the isolated, ego-driven "Scarface" of the second as Cassel skilfully matures his character into a man resigned to the fate he knows must be coming.

The over all impression left by "Mesrine" is that it manages to land successfully between crime thriller, gangster saga and character study. This is achieved by the virtue of a standout central performance, as well as Richet's shrewd application of an American film-making style to a very French story. It ought to go down among the top crime dramas of the decade, or at the very least raise the (already decent) international profile of its impressive leading man.
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Finally a crime movie like they ought to be
spamobile14 March 2012
Although living in France I hardly speak it so was confined to reading subtitles. You have to see this movie in French though, it's as French as it can be. But, it's French as good as it can be. Hearing it in French makes it all the better. It's been a long time that such a good crime gangster movie was made. The realism level is amazing. If a car crashes into something else, it get's damaged, not like in your average American crime movie where the most ridiculous turns and jumps are made and they keep on driving like nothing happened. The shooting is realistic, shoot to kill but it's not that easy in all the excitement to hit something. It's the ugly truth about a live gone wrong. You start with feeling for the main character due to the circumstances but soon you'll end up on the other side, detesting his being, but that makes you all the more nailed to your seat to see what happens next. Gangster pure sang, which, of course, meets his end like it supposed to. I won't give anything away as that would take away your experience when you watch the movie, and watch it you must!
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Vincent Cassel Masterclass
DontEffWithThePriest16 July 2010
I think it's common knowledge how the film ends, but I won't divulge for those that don't know. Public Enemy No. 1 is far more action packed and seems far more 'Hollywood' than the comparatively quieter 'Killer Instinct' - unsurprising though, considering it's the business end of the Mesrine story.

Cassel is the driving force behind the whole film, without him it would have been an average to good film - with him it's good to great.

I don't know where everyone stands as far as the real life Mesrine goes - hero or villain. I certainly put myself in the villain camp, and so does Cassel and it shows.

From the offset we see that all though Mesrine can speak passionately, lucidly and 'rabble rousingly' it is always characterised by an impenetrably brash and brazen arrogance which is NEVER counterbalanced with any vulnerability to make the character more endearing. Jacques Mesrine's inherent evil is often masked by a jocular bravado and his monologues justifying his way of life are mesmerising - but you're never convinced enough to actually like him. Therein lies Cassel's greatest achievement in the film - to create a character for which all you can feel is antipathy but nevertheless to find him intriguing enough to carry on watching.

Certainly, he does afford us some light touches. I smiled as he boasted at the beginning of the film of being Public Enemy Number 1; his face being Gallic nonchalance personified, as well as the scene of him and his accomplice Francois Besse (played by Mathieu Almaric) trying to cross a river.

Besse provides a solid sidekick for Mesrine to flourish, telling Mesrine that they are not 'luminaries' soon after Mesrine's interview where he tries to elevate himself to hero status with the most simplistic of demagogic arguments: "I don't like laws and I don't want to be a slave to those laws in perpetuity" (to paraphrase).

I do have some small criticisms, such as Anne Consigny's (who incidentally appeared with Almaric in 'Wild Grass', 'A Christmas Tale' and 'The Diving Bell and the Butterfly') unconvincing role as Mesrine's corrupt solicitor. Her face seems just too honest.

That petty criticism aside I'd give the film 7.5/10, giving the benefit of the doubt it's an IMDb 8.
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Why can't biopics go deeper into the childhood?
alicecbr8 September 2010
Mesrine was both a Reniassance man and a sociopath. H cooks wonderfully, loves fine wine and good cigars, as well as fancy women. But he is absolutely ruthless. When he creeps into the hospital to see his dying father, you wonder "What went wrong?" Was the father too strict? Not strict enough? Mesrine obviously had a death wish as he courts his death with flair and imagination.

He loves the media, and is loved in return. Unlike the complicit media who lied about Pat Tillman's death at the hands of members of his own company and infuriated his family, Mesrine and Paris Match are on the same page. To see how gentle he is with the family he takes hostage, and how he doesn't desert the other crook who has been shot in the leg, shows you that this murderer has many facets to his character.

As I looked up the history of the right-wing writer they leave for dead, I was amused to see a video of him from his hospital bed, and he is very handsome, much more so than the bland actor portraying him. Mesrine, au contraire, is much handsomer than the real Mesrine. But , like many movies about famous people, I am left empty wishing there was more substance to the causal factors in his life.

Nonetheless, I am buying both to see again.
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A man of principle; albeit criminal principle
dharmendrasingh17 November 2010
'It's pronounced may-reen!' Jacques barks at a police officer for mispronouncing his name while recording a statement for one of his latest misdemeanours. Jacques now claims his crimes are politically motivated, but if anything, they have become less a means to an end than an end in themselves. Sustaining his role as France's number one outlaw becomes a vocation in itself.

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.
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Killer Instinct is the better of the 2
macktan89411 October 2010
I loved Killer Instinct, the best film I've seen in 2010, perhaps in the last few years. Vincent Cassel is stupendous at Jacques Mesrine, a brutal and bold bank robber with an ego that would intimidate Sigmund Freud. In Public Enemy, Mesrine's ego continues its meteoric growth, but his character development stagnates. And that's what makes Part 2 not as good as Part 1.

Part 2 is simply entertainment for those who enjoyed Mesrine's bravado in Killer Instinct. Bold escapes and robberies, shoot em ups, etc. But without any character growth--and a pseudo- revolutionary mindset does not ring authentic--you come away thinking that you've seen this before and done better in Part 1. In fact, with a little thought, parts 1 & 2 could have been merged to make one heckuva movie at a longer than average length.

But it's still worth watching and, in fact, worth purchasing. Go Vincent Cassel.
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Masterpiece Part 2
searchanddestroy-124 November 2008
Last Month, I commented Mesrine Part One: "L'Instinct de Mort".

Now, there is Part Two.

This movie is as terrific and exciting as the previous one. The characterization as fascinating and poignant too. Cassel gives here his best performance ever. Whatever he will do in the future, he will never do better. He has reached here the top of his career.

I'll just describe one sequence. Somewhere the equivalent of the one I gave you for the previous chapter. Remember, when Cassel and Depardieu took a woman protector - an Arab - for a "ride" in their car.

Here, in this movie, Cassel and his anarchist, revolutionary and extreme left winged friend Lanvin - Charlie Bauer - take a journalist for a ride in their car, too. An extreme right winged one. A fascist. So, when the journalist in question tells the two men that the Algerians deserved to be killed in Paris, in 1961, and thrown in the Seine by Papon's policemen, don't miss Lanvin's eyes in the rear mirror. Don't miss his face. Especially when you already know that Lanvin -Bauer - fought for free Algeria, and that he hates fascists to the death.

At this moment, you understand that this journalist - who also told in his papers that Mesrine was a traitor for his friends and a coward too - was going to live some "difficult" moments...

So delicious to witness in the audience, I mean.

And about the very ending, the last shot of this film, I promise that every one in the theatre stays still some minutes afterwards. Stroke by lightning. Even if every one is prepared for it.
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CrazyAboutFilm Movie of The week!
JoshuaParis7 February 2010
Jacques Mesrine (Cassel)one of France most notorious criminals, Wanted for murder and robbery. Easily escaping from every maximum prison thrown at him. He was certainly a colourful character. This amazing two part film literally blew me away. The action, characters and plot are all well thought out and directed by Jean-François Richet (Assault on precinct 13). In many ways his life mirrors that of john Dillinger's (Public Enemy) who was also a publicly acclaimed Anti-hero. As you follow the troubled front man, you start to understand that he had more in his sights then smash and grab hold ups.

Vincent Cassel is brilliant as the "honest bandit". I decided to watch part one (Killer Instinct) after that, I couldn't get enough of this rather vivid bio. Both parts of the story are equally as strong; the first being may be more accessible then the latter. But for the full effect I recommend you watch it back-to-back. It's a roller-coaster ride that leaves you wanting more.

But as the dust settles and Mesrine accepts his inevitable decline "If you are listening to this, then I have been sent to a cell, for which there is no escape" simply amazing cinema! Reviewer: Joshua Roberts For more weekly reviews go to
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Cassel still dazzles as 'Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1'
d_art5 September 2010
Once gain directed by Jean-François Richet, Mesrine: Public Enemy No.1 (Part 2) continues on from Mesrine: Killer Instinct (Part 1) 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. Essentially, this film focuses on the latter half of Mesrine's life, based on Mesrine's memoirs. Whereas the first film focused on Mesrine's rise from the average joe to a big time criminal, this film shows the events after Mesrine has been declared Public Enemy No.1 in France, and then his eventual demise. (My review of Part 1 is here.) In this film, Mesrine appears to have gained some weight and seems to be balding. He is also at the height of his game and notoriety. He has been playing the media, which has been labeling him a "Robin Hood," of sorts. Meanwhile, he has been declared "Public Enemy No.1" in France. One can guess that things will start to go downhill for him. As indicated in the first film, Mesrine will eventually be gunned down.

The visuals are grittier this time around, more modern, and much of the action takes place in the city. As opposed to the deep reds and greens of the first film, the modern environment is more gray with contrasts. The first film felt more "old school" Hollywood. It is more modern here. We now see more sideburns.

My complaint for the first film was that it felt episodic and crammed together as we watched Mesrine going from one caper to the next across a span of many years, sometimes almost like a documentary. This time, the film takes place mostly in the 70's and a less condensed period of time. The pacing is noticeably more even. More importantly, we also get to see more aspects of Mesrine's personality, his thoughts, and there are occasional contemplative scenes. If the first film was more action-driven, this one feels more character-driven.

Vincent Cassel is terrific as usual playing Mesrine, and here, he is now the man people know him for, he is more comfortable in his skin, confident, and has more wisecracks to dish out. Proud of his growing notoriety and his ability to manipulate the media, Mesrine appears to be having a lot of fun here as well as Cassel playing him. Olivier Gourmet plays Le commissaire Broussard, who is leading a task force to apprehend Mesrine. Broussard and Mesrine appear to have a respectful mutual understanding of each other. Broussard appears relaxed and fairly controlled most of the time, and compared to the vast emotional range of Mesrine, Broussard can feel a bit two dimensional. Matthieu Amalric is terrific as the bulgy-eyed French criminal named François Besse, a master of prison-escapes, whom Mesrine befriends in prison. After helping Mesrine escape, Besse and Mesrine begin working together in their heists. Besse is essentially the opposite of Mesrine--he is efficient, intelligent, lacks showmanship, and takes his work more seriously. There's a revealing moment in the film where Mesrine argues with Besse about their end goals.

Mesrine has also gotten a new woman, Sylvia (Ludivine Sagnier), who becomes a bit of a Bonnie to his Clyde in his heists. There's a bit of familiar glamour and lightness to the film when they dress up and start spending the money away. Cue the happy music and the lady trying on expensive hats. As in the first film, these moments are contrasted with Mesrine's violent side. The darkest moment in the film is when Mesrine's partners up with the politically radical Charlie Bauer (Gerard Lanvin) and kidnaps and tortures a journalist who had written unflattering things about him. The scene is harsh and gritty.

Ultimately, the film's greatest asset is still Vincent Cassel's amazing performance and believability. The action scenes and the progression of events are solidly directed by Jean-François Richet. Admittedly, this film still feels rather episodic like the first film. But, it is deeper. A good, solid cap to the 2-part series.

*** 1/2 out of **** stars You can also follow my movie reviews on
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A worthy follow up to Death instinct
doomgen_2921 November 2008
All in all, i highly enjoyable and competent work from Richet, he truly captured Mesrine animal like charisma, his rebellious and determined character, his savagery and his sense of humor. Cassel did a amazing job as well, he's so impressive, funny and scary, idealist and cynical, he really brings it all on screen. One really as to salute Richet's accomplishment here, the pressure on him was huge, Mesrine is truly France's "Scarface" (only here it's for real !), known by all and fascinating as hell, i mean the guy was a superstar, a media freak who wonderfully played with the media to get some kind of support from the population and ridicule the system and the government, and he almost reached his goals! Now i just cant wait for the BR to arrive, so i can watch both movies consecutively and confirm my first impression, which is that Richet has done something huge, exiting and impressive, un coup de maître if you will !
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Some modern French mythology (reviews the two parts)
aFrenchparadox22 September 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This two-part film is good in the way it doesn't only show the charisma of Mesrine (which is the main cause of his myth in France I think), but also his extreme violence and how he was just a "rabid dog" taking political causes to satisfy this violence. Still Mesrine remains fascinating by his level of boldness and how he just failed French and Canadian states in dealing with him. This is maybe a part of my punkness which appreciates this boldness but I think this is why people found him charismatic: he was defying institution and was quite efficient doing it. An anthropological insight in the French mind somewhat!
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"The Legend"/"Public Enemy No. 1": the self-destructive exploitation of the image
Chris Knipp23 February 2009
Part 2 is more episodic than Part 1, but it has several unifying elements: the relationships with a notable accomplice, the quiet, secretive, but equally bold Francois Besse (Matthieu Amalric); with his last and perhaps most romantic girlfriend, Sylvie Jeanjacquot (Ludivine Sagier); and, after a special "anti-Mesrine cell" has been created just to track him down, with the police manhunt that ends his life. Their code name for him is simply "le grand," the Big One. Above all the film now has an overriding focus on Mesrine's growing public identity, which he consciously shapes. This grows out of the energetic theatricality of Vincent Cassel's performance. There are various scenes of Mesrine "performing" in a police station (where Part Two begins); for journalists of high-circulation weeklies; in court; robbing banks; and for the world at large. If there was once a discernible difference between his public and private life, it has disappeared now that he's assumed arch-gangster status. Cassel literally takes on volume, having put on 45 pounds for this part of the role. His character is solid, confident, and aware of his public image at all times, and with his inflated self-importance, he redefines himself as some kind of savior of the common man from the tyranny of the banks and the bourgeoisie. Various more sophisticated thinkers try to explain to him that the banks aren't the problem, and that robbing them doesn't alter the system and perhaps reinforces its importance.

As Part 2 begins, the now notorious gangster has made his way back to France. Spectacularly, Mesrine and another accomplice escape by holding up a Compiègne courtroom where he's about to be put on trial, taking the judge hostage on the way out. This segment is told in flashback: the gangster is telling his story to the cops after getting caught. He is subsequently furious to learn that the dictator Pinochet has seized page one of the newspapers by being apprehended, and pushed him out. He immediately demands a typewriter and begins to write his first autobiography, L'Instinct de mort (Death Instinct) to gain more attention.

But we also see Mesrine concealing his now more prominent public identity by assuming a series of disguises. He dresses up as a doctor to visit his dying father in a hospital and say goodbye. ("Why are you here?" his dad asks. "Well," answers Jacky, "all the banks were closed. . .") He not only gives Paris Match an important interview, but (in a sequence of excessive violence) tracks down, tortures and murders right-wing journalist Jacques Dallier (Alain Fromager), who enraged Mesrine by having written a piece for the journal Minute calling him a "dishonorable crook" and claiming he has "betrayed" his associates. And we see Mesrine operating through the medium of his attorney (Anne Consigny, of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and A Christmas Tale), who risks her career by helping him get pistols for yet another of his escapes--one that includes fording a river and passing a police roadblock in a farmer's Peugeot.

This time, he escapes with the reserved, suspicious François Besse (Matthieu Amalric), who, like him, has already escaped from prisons three times before and is treated as a celebrity by prison guards. Besse is a sharp contrast to the flamboyant Mesrine and thinks him foolish and mad, though like everyone else, he respects his courage and audacity. The two men rob the Deauville gambling casino's coffers, posing as inspectors to get in. But before that at Mesrine's instigation they pose as Paris cops checking on the local police headquarter's duty roster, to find out when the station is least well-manned. Besse is uneasy about such bold maneuvers, but even more, questions Mesrine's talking to 'Paris-Match' and claiming he's a revolutionary. But it's the late Seventies, the time of the Aldo Moro kidnapping in Rome.

After hearing about the Red Brigades and the Badder Meinhof, Mesrine tells Besse he wants to attack maximum security prisons, in the same way that he went back and attacked the Guantanamo-like Special Corrections Unit in Quebec. The film tells us the SCU's malpractices were ended as a result of Mesrine's exposure of them after his escape. Meanwhile, he persuades Besse to help him kidnap Henri Lelièvre (Georges Wilson), a millionaire Paris slumlord, for ransom, telling the slumlord he represents the PLO. This is another exploit that doesn't go as planned, but leads to a bold escape.

For a while Mesrine connects with Charles Bauer (Gérard Lanvin), an out-and-out radical, and it's with him that he traps and snuffs the right-wing journalist. Bauer in particular debunks Mesrine's claims of being a revolutionary.

The two-film diptych is bookended with the final police shootout in Paris traffic at the Place de Clignancourt that kills Mesrine with Sylvie Jeanjacquot and her little dog at his side, after he has used the slumlord's money to buy her a lot of diamond jewelry and himself a luxury model brown BMW. This is a convention of the genre--the bookending with a final showdown--but the way it's expanded in the finale of Part Two shows both films' fine sense of detail. Olivier Gourmet, among so many others, excels as Commissioner Broussard, head of the anti-Mesrine unit whose operatives are so terrified when the short, now overweight Mesrine walks by where they're hiding.

'L'ennemi public nº 1' had a November 19, 2008 theatrical release in France. It is part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center, March 2009.
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Public enemy No. 1
jotix10030 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Not having seen the first installment about the life of French criminal Jacques Mesrine, perhaps we are at a disadvantage. But recently, we caught the second part of the story in DVD format. The life and times of the man that was so resourceful in escaping captivity, gets a fabulous treatment at the hands of director Jean-Francois Trichet. The whole project owes a lot to the amazing performance by Vincent Cassel, not one of our favorite actors, but one has to recognize he made the whole picture enjoyable.

Of course, we never even heard about the real Mesrine, but his life, the way it comes out in Abdel Raoul Dafri and the director's screen treatment is the stuff that made folk legends, much like the American gangsters in the period of the Great Depression. Unfortunately, not seeing the first part, there are things that are hard to comprehend by just watching the conclusion of the story, which is told documentary style.

Vincent Cassel's take on Jacques Mesrine is what makes the viewer stay riveted to what is happening on the screen. Mr. Cassel has had his share of playing creeps before, but as Mesrines, he gives the performance of a lifetime. Mathieu Amalric appears as Francois Besse, the partner of Jacques' most daring escape from prison. Ludivigne Saigneur is seen as Silvia. Georges Wilson has a small pivotal role as the rich man Henri Lelievre, kidnapped by the two partners. Others in the large cast are the wonderful, but totally unrecognizable Oliver Gourmet, Gerard Lanvin, and Samuel Le Bihan in secondary roles.

A lot of credit must be given to the amazing Robert Ganz cinematography and the careful editing by Bill Pankow and Herve Schneid. The music by Marco Beltrami and Marcus Trumpp adds a layer to the texture of the movie. One can understand the difficulty in making the film look real if one considers this is a story that happened more than thirty years ago. A lot of credit must go to the creator Jean-Francois Trichet for his achievement in recreating the story of a criminal that shook France during the time when he terrorized the country.
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Part deux
kosmasp29 October 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I'm guessing, that you have watched the first part, before you go on and read any reviews about Part 2 of Mesrine. A reviewer wasn't satisfied, because the movie seems like a 200+ min movie cut in half. Well I guess the user is right, but should that affect your rating/how you like the movie?

I don't think so, but then again, you have to make up your own mind. The movie itself is based on the real life character, portrayed greatly by Vincent Cassel. Unfortunately you get reminded quite a few times how this movie will end. Which is OK, for the french audience who already know how the story ended, but for people like me, who didn't know that much about the person, it was kind of a spoiler.

Still even though I knew, what was going to happen, the ending was filled with tension. It is shot and edited in a great manner and kept me on the edge of my (cinema) seat. And even as I was telling myself, that the ending was obvious, I still couldn't stop from being excited. Maybe it's only me, but this deserves your attention, even if it's only on the small screen (TV).
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Somewhat underwhelming, but an acceptable conclusion nonetheless
MaxBorg8919 January 2009
Filmed back-to-back and released a month apart, the two movies chronicling the violent, exciting life of French bank robber Jacques Mesrine were undoubtedly meant to be a high point in the careers of both director (Jean-François Richet) and star (Vincent Cassel). At least, that was the case with the first installment, Death Instinct; the follow-up, Public Enemy Number 1, isn't quite as accomplished.

It starts exactly like Part One, with the scene of Mesrine's death, only this time we're shown the reactions of the public as well, especially that of a police office named Broussard (Olivier Gourmet). We then go back in time to witness Mesrine's multiple criminal acts, arrests, trials and successful escapes. In fact, one could almost say he gets caught on purpose in order to plan a stunning break-out. During one of his lengthier stays in prison, he befriends another crook, Jean-François Besse (Mathieu Amalric, Bond's adversary in Quantum of Solace), and once the two are out of jail they form a nearly perfect team alongside Mesrine's new wife Sylvie (Ludivine Sagnier). Too bad good old Jacques has been declared the French nation's biggest menace, which effectively authorizes Broussard and his team to take him down if necessary.

The title, which is obviously taken from the real-life scenario but could just as well be a homage to William Wellman's celebrated gangster picture, would appear to indicate the film is tonally similar to Death Instinct. It isn't. Whereas the first part was a dark crime film, the conclusion is a lighter deal, a caper, so to say, in the same vein as Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's trilogy (in which, coincidentally, Cassel had a pretty important role). Perhaps it was a deliberate choice to make the second chapter more fun, an ironic contrast of sorts to the bleak ending, but as a result the picture comes off as less interesting from a psychological point of view. Amalric, in particular, while delivering a charismatic performance, isn't given a proper chance to develop his character like Cassel was able to in Death Instinct. As for the leading man himself, his work is still riveting, but even he suffers from the lighter mood and lack of focus (he's still the best reason to watch the movie, though).

Nonetheless, the film moves at an acceptable pace, showcasing good set-pieces and giving Richet the opportunity to switch genres within the same movie. It doesn't quite work as expected, but the mess he handles is still a lot of fun, even if not truly worthy of a figure as complex and fascinating as Jacques Mesrine. Well, at least he's always got the first installment to look back on fondly.

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A good film, but not as strong Killer Instinct
freemantle_uk7 September 2010
After Mesrine: Killer Instinct was a critical hit there was were high expectations towards it's sequel Public Enemy Number One. This film was along side the original, much like the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Matrix sequels, therefore keeping the same style and tone throughout.

Mesrine: Public Enemy Number One is set after Jacques Mesrine (Vincent Cassel) return to France. He robs banks with his crew and escapes from a trial in extraordinary way. When he finally jailed in France Mesrine becomes a Robin Hood like figure, where he claims the banks are the real thefts. He escapes from a Maximum Security Prison with François Besse (Mathieu Amalric) and whilst on the run, Mesrine starts to create an image of being a revolutionary and spread the idea of his loyalty. On the way he continues his life of crime, from robbing a casino to kidnapping a millionaire.

Director Jean-François Richet keeps the serious tone of the first film, showing a realistic level of violence. But the film was shot in a slightly different style and the direction was a little more conservative: there were fewer tricks like the split screen. The script and direction also lacked focus, with the early part of the film just a series of robberies and a escapes. But Richet is a skilled director: the action was well done and he can certainly show Paul Greengrass how to use a hand-held camera. The film also does develop after the 30 to 45 minute mark showing where Mesrine develops as a revolutionary, claiming he is committing crime as a way to break the system but in reality a hypocrite, with his partners even seeing through it. That part of the film reminded me a lot of the Baader-Meinhof Complex, which looked a similar idea. Richet also keep a very fast pace, not allowing for any risk of boredom to set in. Like Killer Instinct, Public Enemy Number One shows that Mesrine operated by himself or in small groups, working on a ground little.

Cassel performance was very strong, pulling off a Robert De Niro, putting on weight and developing a belly. He truly captures his characters as a hypocrite, who wants the high life and a master of disguise. With Richet's direction Mesrine is shown to be a resourceful man, a tough fighter and has an oily charisma that allows him to get away with lot with the public. He is ably supported by a strong cast like the first: and like the first film everyone is as good as each other, with Mathieu Amalric begin particularly strong.

Public Enemy Number One is a enjoyable film but it does not match Killer Instinct for quality.
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Maybe I am Dangerous
ferguson-66 September 2010
Greetings again from the darkness. This is part two of director Jean-Francois' tale of famed criminal Jacques Mesrine. As in part one, Vincent Cassel delivers a frightening performance of this psychopath who is addicted to the spotlight, danger, women and little else.

The second film drives home the point that Mesrine was little more than an aggressive hoodlum. What I mean by that is that he was no criminal mastermind. No real strategist. He just steals when he needs money and then quickly helps the press fill in the blanks on his escapades. Watching him swell with pride as he is pronounced France's Public Enemy Number One is just plain creepy.

Ludivine Sagnier (so great in "Swimming Pool") plays Sophie, his last girlfriend. Watching her reaction to her dog being shot in the final shootout tells you all you need know about her and her relationship with Mesrine.

Much of this part is based on the police chases and the efforts put into "catching" Mesrine and his accomplice. His new partner in crime is played by the terrific Mathieu Amalric ("Quantum of Solace", "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"). Amalric has the steely eyed stare that give him the chops to hang with Cassell.

While I truly admire Cassell's performance in these two films and I find them extremely well made, I still feel a bit empty about the subject matter. Mesrine was a brutally violent criminal who managed 3 daring prison escapes, numerous bank robberies, kidnappings and killings. However, there is just not much depth to the man. Maybe it's true ... some people just want to see the world burn. No matter what, these two films should be seen as close together as possible. This is ONE STORY cut into two pieces. Set aside 4 hours and see the entire thing.
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the second part of a good blockbuster
wvisser-leusden16 December 2009
Jacques Mesrine (1936 - 1979) was a famous French criminal, whose adult life and criminal career is filmed in two 'Public Enemy Number One'-parts.

So now part 2 is on. We are shown a great Mesrine at the height of his career, very well performed by Vincent Cassel. We also see the development of the social mechanisms that enable the French police to kill Mesrine in the end: without any trial, and getting away with it.

'Public Enemy Number One - Part 2' also provides the big bonus that part 1 lacked: Ludivine Sagnier. Although she shines throughout, one wonders if Sagnier has been the right choice for a film like this: her face is too sincere, too decent, to act the slut of France's criminal number one.

Taking the parts 1 and 2 together, there can be no doubt that Jean Francois Richet made a great blockbuster.
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The conclusion of French gangster Jacques Mesrine's story
Tweekums18 July 2012
Warning: Spoilers
After escaping from the authorities in Quebec Mesrine is back in France but he hasn't retired from a life of crime; he is still robbing banks and after escaping from court once again is declared 'Public Enemy Number One'. When caught again he vows to escape and a few years later he does just that. On the run with fellow escapee François Besse they calmly go into Deauville police station claiming to be police from Paris so they can determine what they will be up against before robbing a casino! This time it looks as if half the police in France are after them but they get away by taking a family hostage... then paying them for the trouble. After they split up; Jacques returns to Paris where he meets the beautiful Sylvie. He also meets up with old friend Charly Bauer, who is now a revolutionary. More crimes and mayhem follow until the film end just the way part one began; with Mesrine and Sylvie driving through Paris until gunmen opened fire on their car... this time though we learn who it was that shot him and whether he or Sylvie survived.

If you've not seen the first part of this story yet it is advisable to watch it first as that provides the necessary introduction to Mesrine; no time is wasted here introducing him again. This may be based on a true story but it is just as exciting as most fictional thrillers in not more so... many events that occur would seem far-fetched in a work of fiction but what we see here really happened! That of course can be a problem too; Mesrine is a charismatic character but he can also be brutal and knowing certain events really happened is disturbing; this is particularly true in the scene where he beats and then shoots a journalist. As in the first film actor Vincent Cassel gives a brilliant performance as Jacques Mesrine and he is ably supported by the likes of Ludivine Sagnier and Mathieu Amalric who play Sylvie and François respectively. There are some extremely brutal moments but if you can get through those this pair of films make a gripping story that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to adult viewers.
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The portrayal continues with Mesrine as a Public Enemy, and although not Number One out of the two films, is still a substantial telling of the man's plight.
johnnyboyz3 August 2010
Public Enemy Number One changes tacts in the 2009 double-bill chronicling notorious French gangster Jacques Mesrine, in that where the first was interested in detailing the rise and rise of the man, with hierarchy dominating the subject matter as well as the creating of his reputation; this edition is focused more on the tale of a gangster situated at the top of his game as well as the top of the state's hate list, hence the title, as an air of inevitability in dramatic decline begins to creep in. Cassel is back as Mesrine and playing him as the man whom ages into this somewhat grotesque, bearded, balding, overweight individual with delusions he's beaten mostly everyone up to this point and thus, is able to do mostly anything he wishes in winning any feud he instigates. The title refers to the name the state tagged onto him as Mesrine evaded capture; incarceration; thieved and terrorised to the point a 'shoot to kill' tactic had to be deployed. Since most of their primary methods were rendered futile due to the man's seeming invulnerability to being held down in a prison, a more blood thirsty tactic was forced into being deployed. As the state appear to step up their tactics and actions, Mesrine comes across as winding down as age and apparent psychological state catch up with him in that ideas of new plateaus such as politics and guerrilla warfare onto which he'll move begin to fill his head.

If Killer Instinct was more to do with building a man up, this film is concerned with knocking him down; the first film allowing us to form our own opinion of him as he engaged in all this immoral activity but director Jean-François Richet refraining from painting an overly hateful image of him. When Mesrine appeared to engage in a violent act for the first time in Killer Instinct, it was against a pimp whom had beaten a woman up, rendering said fight against a sleazy; woman hating; sex industry working individual. Here, Richet drops us into an early instigation of violence as we observe Mesrine in a courthouse facing sentencing; but, and after a brief allusion to The Godfather, is soon shooting up police officers and taking a judge hostage as he escapes in what is a sequence of violence solely designed to turn us away from him as he does what he does; this, rather than paint an imbalanced portrait such as previously. Richet gradually veers us away from this figure of Mesrine, deliberately alienating us from him as the end nears, in savage beatings of hapless helpless journalists; the kidnapping and threatening of rich old men in their 80s for ransoms and a particularly gross montage right nearer the end in which Mesrine and fresh squeeze Sylvie Jeanjacquot (Sagnier) indulge in mass spending with ill-gotten money as wallowing in the purchasing of brand new cars and expensive diamonds gradually force us into turning on them.

Director Richet paces this alienation wonderfully, only very gradually taking this character away from the audience before the inevitable comes to a hilt. If Killer Instinct was all about telling a story about a criminal flying all over the place and whose tales became dangerously entertaining and engaging as we wanted those around him, on several occasions, to fail in their apprehension; Public Enemy Number One is all about rendering Mesrine oafish and as if nothing more than a middle aged thug with a school playground mentality. When we begin, he's still up to his old tricks in robbing a bank before holding up another across the street for the thrill of it; in hiring a boxer he meets to act as the driver for another escapade, whom is apprehended before the plan can play out, and the consequent getaway which very nearly kills Mesrine and his second accomplice whom himself argues and walks away from Mesrine, we get the feeling the wheels are beginning to come off.

Mesrine's chief criminal relationship is with another French criminal named François Besse, played by Mathieu Amalric. Besse is a quiet voice of reason amidst an inaccurate growing sense of invulnerability; the first night they break out of prison sees Mesrine bring over two women for sex and drugs, despite their faces being all over the news; whilst on another occasion, the venturing into a police station in disguise feels like a discerning act too far, and we relate to Besse as his facial expressions; tone and body language begin to mirror our own. Again, a sense of deliberate alienation creeps in on a number of occasions. The relationship hits a hilt when Besse questions Mesrine's mindset and philosophies, and the distinction between a man on a criminal ladder engaging in hierarchical struggle to that of someone veering more and more away from this life is established. Mesrine's admittance to this new existence and new found sense of life pushes him away from what it was he was in the first film, disobeying and betraying the demands of the genre; a rule breaking which costs him. While not as good as the first film detailing Mesrine's exploits, Public Enemy Number One offers an effective change of tact in covering the man's dangerous, brooding, cut and thrust life; culminating in a sequence which carries the lonesome air of inevitability as the packed, bustling Parisian streets act as the setting for the finale. As a matching set of engaging, powerhouse film-making; Richet's Mesrine double bill certainly delivers.
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The Legend of Mesrine: A Bizarre Cult
gradyharp27 April 2011
MESRINE: PUBLIC ENEMY #1 is a sequel, or actually Part II of MESRINE: KILLER INSTINCT. It is important to note this fact because for the casual viewer who picks up this DVD first there will w a lot of background story missing. Apparently there is somewhat of a cult of Mesrine devotees, so powerful was his image as the most devious criminal of the 1960s -1970s in France. Or perhaps it is the media that makes criminals like Charles Manson, Bonnie and Clyde, John Gotti, Al Capone, John Dillinger etc etc 'heros' to the public. But if examining the lives of such beings entertains you then this film may register.

Apparently the first film in this biopic showed the development of Jacques Mesrine (Vincent Cassel) as he becomes a bank robber, kidnapper, jail breaker, etc, but this film starts with Mesrine in court form which he escapes and then proceeds to rob banks and kill people and eventually end up believing in his own grandeur as Public Enemy #1. The film was written by Abdel Raouf Dafri and director Jean-François Richet who obviously are more concerned with setting up ambushes and escapes and robberies than with character development. The is one well-written scene in the film - Mesrine sneaking into a hospital where his father (Michel Duchaussoy) is dying that is true drama, but the rest is rather uncontrolled raucous crime. Vincent Cassel is such a fine actor that he is able to bring to life this atrocious character (having not seen Part 1 leaves any advantage that film may have given to his character development and why this actor suddenly has a beer gut, etc). He is abetted by Ludivine Sagnier as his pickup girlfriend Sylvia, Mathieu Almaric (another very fine French actor) as his accomplice François Besse, Samuel Le Bihan, Gérard Lanvin, Olivier Gourmet, and Georges Wilson.

The film is overly long (133 minutes) to tolerate all action/no story, but one factor remains: Vincent Cassel's performance is intriguing, right up to his grisly death scene. Not for the faint of heart or for viewers who appreciate a script with a story.

Grady Harp
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exciting gangster epic
antoniotierno18 April 2009
Not a generic crime movie, it certainly has also something of every crime story but much more energy and realism, due to both Cassel's performance and a strong direction that gets to cement effectively the whole story. There's a lot of violence but also an effective job of transforming the movie's central character into a rounded and strongly captivating figure. Cassel is more than electrifying and, although the director leapfrogs many years, the work of describing this big character proves to be perfect. Another element of the film is the Martin Scorsese style, defined by professional reviewers as violent escapism. Of course the whole epic is centered on one performance rather than the plot but I think the second part of this story works even better than the first
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Popular but not superficial
e-7073312 August 2018
Every character seems to be able to make the most sensible judgments about his or her life, but each person has finally made the most realistic choice. After getting used to the drifting criminal life, Jacques Mesrine finally became the kind of small person he was ignorant, constantly struggling in ideals and secular, doing a daydream of subverting the world, but having to beg to the world. Like this movie, always mixed with positive and negative views.
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Mesrine Part II: Taste of Adrenaline, Testosterone and Test of Time...
ElMaruecan8221 March 2017
I ended the review of "Death Instinct" with the following statement: "Mesrine cared enough to leave a legacy that he wrote it himself. That a film was adapted from it says it all, and that one movie wasn't enough to cover everything says even more".

Now, I realized that even two movies couldn't actually do 'justice' to the self-proclaimed anarchist who constantly defied it. And I couldn't possibly write a review before reading the autobiography he wrote during his period at La Santé jail… for once that he wasn't busy masterminding an escape.

With manly gusto, Cassel rendered most identifiable traits of Mesrine but the book made them understandable from a skeptical perspective. Some say "no honor among thieves". But even the cops acknowledged that Mesrine was a man of his word. The film opens with a negotiation with his rival Broussard. Mesrine is cornered and has a girl in the house and no chance to escape, but even in defeat, he stays in command.

He gives his word not to open fire in exchange of twenty minutes; Broussard knows Mesrine will burn some incriminating papers, but anything to avoid the bloodshed. He earns Mesrine's respect, and even more when he accepts to come unarmed as a way to earn the arrest. Mesrine welcomes him with champagne and cigars. After all, if you're going to be arrested, why not do it with some style? It says something crucial about the man; he valued relationships more than money or freedom. Didn't he get back to the Canadian penitentiary he had just escaped from i Canada, because he promised to get his friends out?

Mesrine makes no secret that he's a criminal, that he always wanted the easy way (that wasn't that easy), that he regarded working men as castrated slaves who resigned to a life of mediocrity unchained to the alarm-clock. You can't read the first pages without getting some "Goodfellas" vibes, but the kinship between Mesrine and Henry Hill's stops when you realize it isn't just a choice of lifestyle but a case of determinism guided by a sense of social revolt à la Camus' "Stranger". The greatest enemy of Mesrine isn't the police but the petty representatives of a system that "good" people respect out of cowardice rather than free will.

And Mesrine hasn't enough tough words to denounce the prisons: instead of giving inmates chances for rehabilitation, they only break their spirit or turn them to into tougher and ruthless criminals. That's why he always escaped, and the book he wrote preceded the most sensational of all, it's not just about determination but competence, too. The escape from the trial by hiding gun in the toilet was a masterstroke but the book makes it even more impressive because Mesrine planted the gun before his arrest. He anticipated the possibility and planned the escape 'just in case'. Anticipation is the key to success and Mesrine wasn't only brawn, his brain was his biggest asset.

Now, don't get the wrong idea, competence and honor don't make him "honorable", still, his ego wouldn't have tolerated any defaming accusation, he was a gangster, a killer, who could kill cops but no civilians, he loved children, animals, braved all the risks to go visit his dying father, he was a master of disguise who couldn't disguise his feelings when it came to love, as he could write passionate and romantic declarations of love to his women. He 'finished' two Canadian rangers by executing them in the head but he felt more remorseful toward that bird he accidentally shot when he was twelve. As regret, he only wished they didn't draw their guns… but they knew the rules, they played, were slower, and lost. Anyway, the way he saw it, he never gratuitously killed.

So he knew his value and operated in an endless spiral of bank robberies and parties, only punctuated by short periods of jail. That was his routine, he couldn't stop. At one point, his partner in crime Charlie leaves him because he knows he reached the no-return point. Mesrine moves forward, it's the business he's chosen, he loved the taste of adrenaline and the testosterone-driven life, he says that the day the nation gave him a weapon to fight the Algerians; he couldn't get rid of it. It became a drug. The same year, "The Hurt Locker" was released and it started with the quotation that 'war was a drug'. Mesrine was addicted too, he cherished the risk, he didn't care about his own life as long as he had a chance (he never foolishly risked his neck) but he never feared death, which made him even more dangerous, death was still a better option than jail, and he proved it four times.

He knew Karma would finally have the last word. And the ending was the one part he could have never written, but he foreshadowed it. He knew police would never give him a chance in an ambush. They didn't, he was killed without summation, with explosive bullets (prohibited) and the most shocking moment was when a cop coming from another car gave him the same treatment than for the Canadian rangers. Mesrine never believed in the 'blaze of glory' death but I guess if he wrote a book from beyond-the-grave, he wouldn't have been much spiteful toward his executioners, he knew the rules, he played and lost, like the Canadians, fair trade.

I don't feel much admiration toward him, but who doesn't want to be a tiger rather than a sheep. I guess that's the power of cinema, to make us live a character's life by proxy, admiring a bad guy the time of a film and then come to your sense. Still, if you read the book, it'll take more time. It doesn't say that there is honor among thieves; just that there are brave people and cowards in every kind of people. And gangsters are people, too.
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Great History of a Criminal
DegustateurDeChocolat1 February 2014
Mesrine is a great movie about the life of a criminal, Mesrine, who's perfectly interpreted by Vincent Cassel, with his first steps as a simple bank robber to move gradually to a more sophisticated criminal. Thanks to Cassel the personality of the character comes out quite strongly, showing his violence, his ambition and also his great passion for women. Since he's chased by a rival gang he's forced to go to Canada to start a new life. He finds a new girlfriend (Cecile De France) with whom he commits some bank robberies and for which goes to jail. However he manages to escape and go back to France where he finds the situation changed. Probably it won't become a cult movie as big as some other legendary gangster movies like Scarface or The Godfather, but it will surely occupy an important position in its genre.
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