Mesrine Part 1: Killer Instinct (2008) Poster

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8/10
The first part of a two part true story French gangster flick about a gangster I had never heard of.
david-phillips-422 September 2009
What is it with gangsters? I like watching gangster films and I don't care what sort of gangsters they are. Something about the bravado and living the high life seems to appeal and there is always an element of charisma about them. That's not to say I wish to be a gangster or to break the law, but the self confidence and the refusal to take sh** from anyone attitude is attractive. But, were I to be placed in a room with a genuine gangster, I'm certain I would be terrified and would want to get out of there ASAP.

The film opens with Mesrine making a decision whilst in the French army and in Algiers whether to follow his superior's orders to shoot the wife of a terrorist suspect or to shoot the suspect. This moment, as well as establishing that Mesrine has the killer instinct of the title, shows us that he is not one for conforming to authority, as he ignores his superior and takes the shot.

From that point, the film is episodic as it follows Mesrine from petty crime to audacious criminal exploits. Each episode showcases another aspect to Mesrine's multi-layered character. Yet, because they are episodic, some of Mesrine's character fails to carry over from one to the next. This presents a fairly schizophrenic view of him which could well be in keeping with his real-life persona.

However, many of the episodes do provide insights into why this particular person's journey took this particular route. Having left the army, Mesrine turns to petty crime with his friend. This leads him to more serious crime, working for a Parisian crime lord, brilliantly underplayed by Gerard Depardieu. His personal life also keeps pace with his professional ascension. He has an ill-fated romance with a prostitute and a holiday romance that becomes a marriage following a sojourn to Spain. The film also takes the time to illustrate the strained relationship Mesrine had with his parents, in particular his father. Far from coming from a broken home, Mesrine is clearly from a loving, if conservative, family. Only Mesrine's own inner rage, reminiscent of James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, at his father's seeming lack of courage rocks that world.

It is easy to see how Mesrine captured the imaginations of so many. His charisma, very ably aided by Vincent Cassel's own screen presence, shines from the screen whether talking his way out of house or defiantly standing up to his brutal treatment when he is finally caught and incarcerated.

He was imprisoned and brutally treated, following a one man / one woman crime wave across the world and, as part of his escape plan he assured those helping him that he would return to break them out. It is testament to his stature that they believed him and it is testament to his word that that is exactly what he attempted. Throughout his return to facilitate the breakout, the film enters the realms of an action movie.

The exploits of Mesrine left me wondering just how much the makers had embellished, or Mesrine has embellished for that matter – the film is based on his memoir, or did this guy really do these things?

There is one thing that I do know about Mesrine: I can't wait to see part two!

www.writeronthestorm.wordpress.com
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9/10
Parts 1 & 2 together, Epic.
come2whereimfrom27 July 2009
Every once in a while a part comes along that is cast so well it's as if the actor was born to play and will forever be remembered for that role. Vincent Cassels portrayal of Frances public enemy number one, Jacques Mesrine, is one such role. Funny, disturbing, charming, psychotic and more Cassel is the larger than life criminal achieving a completely believable character study of someone the French press dubbed 'the man of a thousand faces' due to his ability to change his looks so often to evade the police. In fact the truth behind this most notorious of stories is so unbelievable at times that the filmmakers left parts out thinking the audience would think it was just too far fetched, in fact after watching the escapades of Mesrine I too thought 'all that couldn't have happened surely?' But after a little bit of homework I found that it did indeed all take place and after seeing the tale unfold you realise why Mesrine got his Monika. The film, told in two parts, opens with a brilliant seventies cop style feel and begins at the end before returning us to the start where we see a young Mesrine in the army fighting in the Algerian war, on his return to his native Paris he quickly becomes entangled with Guido a mafia boss played superbly by Gerard Depardieu (why had no one cast him in this kind of role before?) and over the course of the next four thrilling hours he rises to become the career criminal that became an embarrassment to the French police and government. Shot all grainy and washed out with an amazing attention to detail we follow Mesrine from bank robberies to kidnap, general violence to daring prison escapes and in a complete juxtaposition we see the family man, the charmer and the comedian. Hailed by some as a kind of Robin Hood figure the film never judges either way and gives you enough information for you to make up your own mind but of course with a figure so complex it's hard when the lines blur. He obviously loves his children doting on them in one scene but in another he smashes a glass in a man's face and beats and leaves a journalist for dead after he wrote a disparaging article about him. What doesn't help is that a lot of what happens is taken from the book Mesrine wrote in prison 'Killer Instinct' a work that he himself has said was slightly exaggerated to make him seen more notorious than he actually was. Overall though the film is a thrill ride from start to finish and can hold its own with any of the great gangster epics. Stylish, violent and gob smacking, it's a must see and with the immersive bravado of Cassel as Mesrine this film will be one that will be held in high esteem for some time to come.
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8/10
A killer biopic
MaxBorg8917 January 2009
How do you recover from an American project that was received with mixed reactions to say the least (that would be the Assault on Precinct 13 remake)? Easy: go back to your home country (in this case France) and devote time to your real passion project, the one that can give you bona fide director credentials. That's exactly what Jean-François Richet did with Death Instinct, the remarkable first part in a two-movie story about famous French criminal Jacques Mesrine.

Like most other biopics, the film opens with the protagonist's death, and what a spectacular demise that is: gunned down by unidentified shooters in the middle of a crowded Parisian street. The story then flashes back to the early '60s, when Jacques (Vincent Cassel) returns home after a harrowing tour of duty in Algeria. Looking for work, he learns an old friend of his earns money on the side by carrying out certain "assignments" for a heavyweight (pun not intended) criminal known as Guido (Gérard Depardieu). At first, it's all fun and games, exotic holidays and beautiful women. Then, once Jacques gets married, his wife isn't quite happy with his lifestyle. The thing ends badly, and Mesrine continues his illegal career, toughening up after Guido is brutally murdered. Thus begins his successful series of bank robberies and scams that quickly lead him to becoming the most wanted man in France and prompt his brief stay in Canada. Even there, however, he just can's stay away from trouble.

Richet is certainly no Michael Mann (an obvious reference when it comes to the robbery scenes), but he tells the story with gusto and precision, staging the tale as if it were a traditional gangster movie: taste of power, discovery of the unpleasant consequences, fight until the end to reach the top. He deals with an impressive amount of material (and this is just Part One) and handles it so that even the merely explicative bits feel tense and exciting. From start to finish, Killer Instinct moves at a reasonably quick pace, asking the viewer for commitment and endurance, and deservedly so: it's one hell of a thrilling ride.

If one has to complain, it should be noted that the psychology of certain characters is a bit sketchy (Guido is really nothing more than the average gangster type), but that flaw is generally compensated by very solid acting. The most effective (and terrifying turn) is of course the one coming from Cassel, who was everyone's first and only choice for the leading role, according to cast and crew statements. Returning to the more troubled side that has been left pretty much unexplored since La Haine, he digs into Mesrine's dark psyche and re-emerges with a complex, chilling part that makes him deserving of the his widespread reputation as one of France's best young thespians.

As for the deliberately open ending, the final captions are clever but a bit smug: after revealing the fate of characters who won't return in the follow-up, the title card says "As for Jacques Mesrine... End of the first part". As if we didn't know that already.
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8/10
Lands successfully between crime thriller, gangster saga and character study
youllneverbe26 September 2009
*REVIEW OF BOTH PARTS*

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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9/10
A convincing character study
paul2001sw-126 July 2012
Charistmatic gangster are a staple of cinema, and Frenchman Jacques Mesrine was actually liked to the most iconic of all such figures, Bonnie and Clyde. In truth, such people are rarely heroes, but this two-part story captures excellently the psychological processes that might have transformed an ordinary man into the public enemy of his day. Vincent Cassel is very good, and the film is full of suspense; it neither demonises nor glamorises its protagonist, and interestingly, sets his story against the backdrop of the political violence of the 1970s, which had a superficial interest to Mesrine as he built his own legend. Even if you're tired of violent criminal dramas, I recommend this one: the (true) story is amazing, and told with a humanistic viewpoint rare in such films.
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8/10
A powerful thriller for an amazing true story !
doomgen_2930 October 2008
We could argue for hours about the point that Richet is trying to make, is he simply celebrating and glamorizing the crazy life of Jacques Mesrine ? Is he trying to say something about the increasing presence of big brother in western countries (the patriot act in the US, cameras everywhere in the UK or the french debate about listings of people etc...)wish supposedly smothers us and would render the existence of men like Mesrine an impossibility? But in the end who cares ? The movie is an absolutely brilliant genre movie, with amazing actors at their best, an incredible recreation of seventies France, very realistic and visceral action scenes (all based on facts by the way !), and Richet's directing is very controlled, precise, you feel he knows what he wants, sort of the anti-Brett Ratner if you will, and the ambiance is spot on too. Time flew so fast when was watching the film, and now i just can't wait for the follow up which should arrive in 2009. truly great stuff !
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9/10
"The Origins"/"Death Instinct": the birth of a criminal dynamo
Chris Knipp23 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Richet's Ma 6-T va cracker is a legend and his Carpenter re-make Assault on Precinct 13 is a fluent and explosive action update. Clearly an accomplished filmmaker with a flair for violence, he was evidently attracted by the sheer ambition of this project but also the complexity of a gangster who, flourishing at the time of the Red Brigades and Bader-Meinhof, came to think of himself as not just an outlaw but a revolutionary, who wrote two autobiographies, and thus provided material for film-making that would be both layered and epic.

This double biopic, part one in 113 minutes and part two 132 minutes, resembles Soderbergh's Che diptych. It too is neither a feature nor a mini-series, but a vanity project, a labor of love devoted to an ambiguous hero that's hard to market and unsuited to normal theatrical distribution patterns. Both parts are saddled with the biopic burden of a churning chronology and an ever-shifting cast. It's rather conventional and heavy-handed (though mostly successful) in its use of Marco Beltrami's loud surging studio music to augment excitement and heighten suspense. But it's at least as three-dimensional and logically structured as the Soderbergh project, and it has a star in Vincent Cassel who was made to play this role (Richet has said that there would be no Mesrine without him) and despite pell-mell pacing endows the protagonist with complexity. The film may be accused of jamming in too much incident and allowing too little reflection but I was impressed beyond expectations.

Richet's first part shows the formation of a super-outlaw. Mesrine's bank robberies and prison breaks are so spectacular and defiant that he's declared "Public Enemy No. 1" in two countries, Canada and France, officially one of the most famous and dangerous criminals in French history, a figure cops wet themselves over and women want to sleep with. Mesrine, both parts, is full of the sense of how intoxicating it is to live outside the law, and how deeply cinematic gangster life is. Vincent Cassel is charming, charismatic, and loyal to his accomplices as he is ruthless and violent, a complex and magnetic figure who keeps changing from one sequence to another.

The second part shows him playing the role, a media-savvy public icon who would seek front page coverage and give Paris Match an exclusive interview while on the run. Loud, kinetic sequences alternate with quiet ones. This is a great and challenging role for Vincent Cassel, the role of a lifetime, appearing in every scene over a nine-month shoot, 45 pounds put on, early sequences shot at the end with the weight gain. The cast is full of first rate actors, including Depardieu, Ludivine Sagnier, Amalric, Samuel Le Bihan, Olivier Gourmet, Cecile de France, and more. This is not only an impressive and expensive project with high production values and an excellent technical package. It's watchable and well done and at the end of Part One I was eager for Part Two.

Mesrine begins as an agent of De Gaulle's colonial ambitions as a soldier in the Algerian war. "The Marseillaise was playing when they put a gun in my hand--my hand developed a taste for guns." Like American Iraq war vets "Jacky," as his parents called him, came back to his well off upper bourgeois parents (they live in a château) unstable and hungry for violence. War has taught him to torture and murder. It's also left him with a racist hatred of Arabs. His father finds him a job but he prefers to work for a fat, tough crime boss named Guido (an excellent Gerard Depardieu, so submerged in his role he's almost unrecognizable).

Mesrine (pronounced "may-reen," not "mes-reen," as he later insists to cops and journalists) is fighting a war with the rich that may be a war with his own origins. A trip to Spain gets him a beautiful wife, Sofia (Elena Anaya). He's no good as a father, but he remains linked with his firstborn, a daughter, for the rest of his life. After a stint in jail, Mesrine gets a regular job to be there for his family. But he's laid off, and goes back to Guido. Sofia objects, and he beats her up. Sofia disappears, and the film drops that thread.

Escape from the cops leads Jacques to go to Canada with a new girlfriend, Jeanne Schneider (Cécile de France, also submerged and barely recognizable), met like the other women in his life in a bar. This one is not just a bedmate but a willing partner in crime. Denied immigration status in Canada and told to leave the country, Mesrine and Jeanne hide by becoming housekeeper and butler for a wealthy disabled man, but clashes with other staff lead them to lock him up and extort money from his son. This fails and they flee, but are extradited back to Canada from Arizona. Mesrine's subsequent hellish treatment in the Quebec Province SPC (Special Corrections Unit), worthy of Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo, is graphically depicted. This prison and escape sequence is anchors the film. With Jean-Paul Mercier (Roy Dupuis), his Quebecois accomplice from the extortion scheme, Mesrine breaks out in broad daylight. They immediately rob two banks and, keeping a promise, return to the prison armed to the teeth and attempt (unsuccessfully, but messily) to liberate the other prisoners. After this, Mesrine is declared "Public Enemy No. 1" in Canada. He has arrived. The storytelling in this first half is breathless but compelling. It is given particular coherence and focus by the vivid Canadian sequences and the prison escape.

L'Instinct de mort debuted in Paris theaters October 22, 2008. It is part of the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema at Lincoln Center, March 2009.
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7/10
A bit hollow
Dandy_Desmond28 June 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Mesrine is a nice looking film. Its very well made, very well acted but when it was finished I felt I didn't really know the guy, what motivated him or pretty much care for him one way or another. He is described as an anti hero for the French but all I witnessed was him beating his wife in front of his kids, killing people, threatening innocent people in the banks. It is very well put together as a set of cool montages. For example the cool gangsters are playing cards when a rowdy couple of guys walk in and cause some trouble with the bar maid, enter Mesrine and crash bang wallop = sorted. Then we move on to him chatting up some girls, having sex, bank job, beats his wife then his boss and best mate get killed. You see where I am going? - there is never a point where the movie stops and lets you get to know what makes him tick. Like I said its a very good looking film but is a little bit hollow to be considered a great film.
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6/10
TIFF 08: A young generation is forming…L'instinct de mort
jaredmobarak14 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Star Vincent Cassel spoke about his character, the real life Jacques Mesrine, as being "a symbol of freedom and a terrible man." Before screening the world premiere of his new film's workprint cut, Cassel acknowledges Mesrine's brutal nature yet can't stop from saying he loves the role and the opportunity to sink his teeth into being a madman gangster. Based off the criminal's own memoirs, written in jail before his final escape, L'instinct de mort attempts to show the rise to prominence on the streets of the former military man. Spanning from his return home after the Algerian War for Independence to his daring escape from a high security prison, director Jean-François Richet brings us the evolution of a killer. Someone who is ashamed of his father, more loyal to friends than his own wife and children, and always looking for a high risk adventure, Mesrine lives without fear or moral consequence, leaving a wake of destruction behind him.

What happens with this film is that it tries to be a gangster tale, showing gunfights and action, but at its core is only a bio-pic. There is so much jammed into the runtime that nothing is allowed to breath or given time to evolve. Instead a problem is presented and then solved quickly in order to go on to the next. Mental feelings change on a whim often as Mesrine will be happily at home in love with wife and kids and all of a sudden, when his job is lost, becomes abusive and screams he'd pick his friends over his family any day of the week. Important relationships are glossed over so easily that you sometimes are taken out of the proceedings wondering about things that the filmmaker doesn't deem worthy of time. Then why put it in at all? If Mesrine can drop his love for family so easily, it's not like showing it is supposed to make us feel for him. No, he is cold-blooded to the bone, there is no need to pretend he may have a heart. Also, other events aren't given any time for discovery. When arrested for the first time, all we're shown is him talking about how the job may be dangerous and next thing we know he's in jail. Perhaps we don't need anymore than this, but evenso, it just makes the film seem choppy and sloppy when it really doesn't have to be. This feeling crops up right from the get-go as the opening credits involve Mesrine and his partner, played by Ludivine Sagnier, engaged in a job. This takes place in the future and I'm sure will be elaborated on in the second movie, but why show it? Just to let us know that he gets older, basically ruining any surprise if he is found in a life or death situation. All showing that scene does for us is say he will not be dying in this film.

These scenes stick out even more because the action sequences are so great. When guns are blaring and tensions are high, Richet definitely has a knack for shooting fluidly, keeping all the action in frame and coherent. Once Mesrine is caught for a second stint in jail and put in solitude, the film really gets good. Along with his friend Jean-Paul Mercier, played by The Rocket's Roy Dupuis, he hatches a plan to break out of the inescapable cage. While the actual escape is a subdued tense affair, trying to beat the clock, it is their return to try and free the rest of the inmates that creates an invigorating set-piece, one that in most films would be the showcase "out in a blaze of glory" moment. Here, though, this is just the first chapter of an eventual two-part story, so the event is allowed to live freely as an instance, either that will be successful or fail without necessarily dire consequences.

Another success is the infusion of humor throughout. Cassel lends Mesrine a very bitingly sarcastic wit that works wonders against characters like Guido, played by Gérard Depardieu, with one-liners and provoking jabs. Even when being pummeled by guards at the prison, he never bites his tongue. Other moments include a dual bank robbery, back to back and across the street; a Bonnie and Clyde type hold-up; and a fantastic kidnapping where he tries to tell the hostage it's his own fault. Cassel's delivery is pitch-perfect and tempers his volatile outbursts nicely.

As a character, Mesrine succeeds very well, he just must partake in so much within two hours that the actual activities never get enough room to stretch their legs. The fact that a second part is still to be released scares me because if all this needed to be squeezed into the first, how compressed will the new one be? The man is an intriguing one—murderer, thief, lifelong criminal—and I wish the story he encompassed here had a bit more excitement. Again, though, that's not to say L'instinct de mort is boring, it is not. The pacing is just too disjointed for an audience to invest in a story thread long enough to care before we are on to the next. This version is a workprint and maybe some more time spent could improve it, but the way it currently leads into the next installment begs the thought that it won't be changing too much at all.
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5/10
It gradually gets better but brings no satisfaction.
naaiman5 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
First of all: the opening scene takes way too long, and has very little to do with the rest of the film. It might be a sneak peak at part 2 of this flick, but I found it utterly useless.

The first 30-40 minutes or so are watchable, but rarely anything special. We get to know the leading roles as they live their pretty extraordinary lives. There's only one scene that left an impression on me before the movie break: Mesrine talking and bluffing him and his friend out of a tight situation.

After the break the worst aspect of the movie is first introduced. Without giving you spoilers it's hard to explain, but let me put it this way: any time the writers/producers felt a situation might be to hard to film, or too expensive, it is just skipped. While the audience is built up to some sort of a climax, all we get to see are the consequences and not the action or process that eventually result in these consequences.

It leaves the audience with a vague feeling of being robbed. It shows that the production team wasn't willing to go all the way, or didn't have the means to do so. This way, some very crucial days, months or even years are skipped like they were nothing. The audience sometimes have to construct whole years of his life while the movie made another time jump to some meaningless event that doesn't even have half the value of some other moments that are shamelessly skipped.

Apart from the story being badly executed and the movie being French I have to say the acting was quite convincing. Almost every one delivers a quality performance. On top of that, the action-filled second part of the movie was fast-paced and enjoyable to watch.

I wouldn't recommend you seeing this movie in theaters, but it might be OK to rent on DVD sometime.

5/10
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8/10
Class gangster movie
valleyjohn23 January 2010
Every country has it's legendary Gangsters . In The UK it is the Kray Twins , In Italy it's anyone in The Sicilian Mafia , In America there is a list as long as your arm but not many people outside of France have heard of Jacques Mesrine ...... Now you have.

Based on the true story of gangster Jacques Mesrine - Mesrine presents the rise and fall of France's most notorious criminal through a two-part showcase; wherein a series of hold-ups, prison breaks and kidnappings, give us an insight into 'The Man with 1000 Faces'. Episode one creates the foundation of Jacques Mesrine's character; from his youth as a dedicated soldier serving in the Algerian war to his seduction by the neon glamour of Sixties Paris and the easy money it presents. Mentored by Guido , the handsome and charming Mesrine soon works his way up the criminal ladder, and flees to Canada with his lover Jeanne having pulled off an audacious heist. However, he cannot resist the temptation of one big payout, and is lured out of hiding and propelled towards international notoriety...

I'm a sucker for a gangster movie. Without a doubt it's my favourite Movie Genre and Mesrine : Killer instinct ticks all the boxes i require in a movie like this. The action is fantastic , the acting is totally believable and the personality that was Jacques Mesrine , makes this highly watchable . I have to confess i had never heard of Mesrine but thanks to a fantastic performance by Vincent Cassel , I'm unlikely ever to forget him.

If you like your Gangster movies then i can recommend this one to you. You might have to hunt for it thanks to people's ridiculous squeamishness for films with subtitles but as usual the foreign language film rarely disappoints and the best this about this film is that it's just the first part. There is a second film called Mesrine : Public enemy number one , and i cant wait to put it in the DVD player!
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1/10
an awful movie about an awful man
irwinnormal29 March 2011
Warning: Spoilers
without any coherence, mesrine, follows the hollow life of the hollow sociopath and murderer, mesrine. After a nearly unwatchable opening sequence; the movie starts in earnest with the torture and murder of algerian rebels who, fighting for independence in their own country, get tied by chains to ceilings and then are shot by the protagonist.

A lovely man, from the start. One can tell.

He returns to France, then after losing his paycheck playing cards, turns to a life of crime; robbing houses and brutally murdering despicable pimps before winding up in prison for, robbing a bank.

He puts a gun in his wife's mouth when she asks him not to continue on this path, witnessed by his daughter who yet, still 'loves him'

All the while, sad orchestral music bemoans the fate of the hardened criminal who must life a life on the run, handsome and behind the wheels of fancy cars, with remarkably beautiful who have fallen hopelessly in love with (at first sight) him.

It is the tale of a poor man from a middle class french family, who despises arabs, and steals from the innocents, all because his father was beholden to his mother and had no 'balls' It's a good thing that they are still making movies like this; ala American Gangster, glorifying/deifying murderers. So, if that's your thing, respect at the price of decency, by any means; ruthless murder and the disgusting glorification of it, by all means, this is the movie for you.

Someone might, (if justice ever prevailed) commandeer all the revenue from this sickening film, and give it to poor children for school and books.
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9/10
The French Clyde Barrow
dharmendrasingh17 November 2010
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.

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A film you won't forget
searchanddestroy-129 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
That's the perfect kind of film that I will place as among the favourites of my movie lover life. A realistic, brutal, ruthless crime tale which recalls the story of Jacques Mesrine, the famous gangster, the intended public enemy number one.

I won't tell you every detail of this movie, except one.

Every knows that Mesrine has fought in the Algeria war. That episode traumatized him to the deep of himself. That made him a wild beast. And when he came back, he rapidly fell into the underworld...And so on...

Of course, he hated the Arabs, and above all the "women protectors", the women slavers, hoods who lived thanks to the prostitutes. So, when one of his mistresses, or women friends - he had many -, was beaten very hard by one of those "protectors" - an Arab !!! -, Mesrine reacted

fast. Very fast. We could see his face harden itself, become a mask of stone and iron.

Guess the following...

The sequence after, when the Arab was brought into the car - driven by Mesrine - by a friend of our "hero", Mesrine watched the Arab through the driving mirror, and his mouth gave a slight smile, a cruel smile, if you considered his eyes. A smile that did not reach these eyes. Those eyes that did not smile at all. A really TERRIFYING look. Every one in the audience understood that Mesrine was going to harm this man, at the rear of the car, HARM.

REAL HARM !!!!

He was going to INJURE him.

The following two minutes are really interesting because the two main characters of the movie - Mesrine, Cassel - and his friend - Depardieu - suddenly became disgusting to the audience. In fact we realized that they were not only lovers of justice by slaying a bloody women slaver, but, above all, they were racists. F...RACISTS. They were not better than the "protector". So, in the audience, we suddenly felt some "sympathy" for the poor Arab. Just one second. We were torn between the two sides. Racists gangsters, and a disgusting mother f...who disfigured women.

Where were the good ones and where were the bad ones ???

That's what I loved the most in this film. And, of course, the actor performance of Cassel as Mesrine is outstanding.

I wait for the second episode : L'ENNEMI PUBLIC.
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8/10
a good blockbuster of a famous French criminal
wvisser-leusden13 December 2009
Jacques Mesrine (1936 - 1979) was a well-known French criminal, getting himself a name for robbing banks and a number of murders. After having received a huge ransom for kidnapping a French millionaire in 1979, French authorities declared him 'Public Enemy Number One'. They increased their efforts to track Mesrine down, and executed him without a trial shortly afterwards. While imprisoned earlier on, Mesrine wrote his autobiography.

'Public Enemy Number One - Part 1' reflects the first part of this criminal's adult life. Starting in the late fifties in Algeria, where French soldier Jacques Mesrine served in the foul war of independence, we get a clear picture of his development as a master-criminal.

Although I think it difficult to judge the historical precision of its plot, this very French film surely makes a good watch. Male lead Vincent Cassel acts a convincing Jacques Mesrine, and the many supporting roles shine with equal quality. The parts 1 and 2 of 'Public enemy Number One' provide a real blockbuster that sticks to the mind.

For the fans of Ludivine Sagnier. She isn't in this Part 1, but will appear in Part 2.
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9/10
More than just an amazing gangster movie
kluseba20 August 2011
The two Mesrine movies are easily the best gangster movies of the last years and can without a doubt be described as the French Godfathers even though the two films have not exactly the same class as the legendary masterpieces.

The thing that is really interesting about this movie is that it is told after true events and partially based on the autobiography of the French gangster and public enemy number one Jacques Mesrine. The movie makes very clear that one can't develop much sympathy for the character but his radical way of life, his brutal honesty and his strong and dangerous emotions surely create a very addicting, explosive and unique character.The first movie tells his life from his actions during the Algerian War up to his escape from a prison in Quebec.

The character is introduced in a very interesting way. One witnesses his first theft, his first murder as well as his first escapes from prison but also how he gets into the crime scene, how he gets to know his second wife and how he gets along as his role as a father of three children with her. Mesrine always chooses the craziest, most radical and often most selfish way to escape from his problems. This movie is not just a gangster saga filled with action and tension but has also an emotional touch of the drama genre and some dark and sarcastic humour.

Mesrine is perfectly portrayed by one of the best contemporary actors coming from France which is Vincent Cassel. Roy Dupuis plays the very charismatic Canadian terrorist and Mesrine's âme soeur Jean-Paul Mercier. The French acting crème de la crème appears in this first part of the legacy. Cécile de France plays Mesrine's future girlfriend and partner in crime that finally decides to chose the path of freedom and justice. Gérard Depardieu plays the intelligent gangster boss Guido. Ludivine Sagnier portrays Mesrine's latest girlfriend and excels in her role as a superficial blonde with fixations on a bourgeoisie lifestyle. The acting of this movie is really stunning and every actor plays his or her role close to perfection.

The movie also discusses topics such as love, friendship, treason, loyalty, respect and more in a very intense way and how Mesrine feels about it. He is a very extreme personality and some of his actions contradict what he has already done or will do in the future and this shows how fragile this gangster really is.

The greatness of this movie does not stop there. The part of the movie when Mesrine is put into a French Canadian prison is very intense. It is not only well filmed with interesting camera positions and cold, touching decorations but reminds me of legendary prison movies such as "Papillon" or "The Shawshank Redemption" and contains some well hidden but intense criticism. Mesrine's escape from prison eventually led to the closure of those inhuman French Canadian prisons and this movie shows us the way of life in this hell in a very intense way. The movie also slightly criticizes the corruptive justice and police in France as well as the way how the medias deal with Mesrine's fate and make an iconic modern Robin Hood out of a dangerous and ignorant gangster that begins to use the medias for his own good and enjoys the show.

As you can see, the movie contains many different elements and details that make it a very diversified, intense and still entertaining gangster movie which happens to be one of the best of its kind. If you like "The Godfather", "Once Upon A Time In America", "Papillon" and "The Shawshank Redemption" you should definitely check this masterpiece out. If you happen to like this movie, you should absolutely try to get the German gangster and terrorist movie "Der Baader-Meinhof-Komplex" which is also based on true events and happened at the same time as Mesrine became the public enemy number one in France. The French movie has also some connections to those events as Mesrine talks from time to time about it as you should have noticed.

In the end, this movie about an extreme and charismatic character is way more than an excellent gangster movie with some social criticism but a gripping two hours of history class.

The only reason why I didn't give the highest possible note is that I would have liked to learn more about the youth of Mesrine. For example, the movie didn't show us his very first wife and how he quit her to go to the Algerian War. It didn't show us how he got honoured by the French government and military for his heroic actions during wartime. It didn't show us how he got caught the first time during a bank theft and how he dealt with it. Those little elements could have made the character even more intense, profound and interesting but a part of that, there is really nothing negative about this amazing movie.
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6/10
I Instinctively Want More
benjamin_lappin22 September 2009
How does one regain credentials as a director after having creating the bona fide disaster piece, that was the typically tedious Hollywood remake, "Assault On Precinct 13"? For a start you return to your roots and you return to what you know, which is precisely what director Jean-Francois Richet has done as he presents the first installment of a two part tale detailing the life of Jacque Mesrine, France's most notorious criminal. The man who was once known as France's "Public Enemy No1" provides an interesting and engaging story, as anyone of such notoriety would, as his life charts an almost unpredictable path across countries and continents but as with all literative adaptations, does it translate onto the big screen?

Well, aside from the fact that no "big screen" has shown this film, and that all viewings have been in smaller independent picture houses reserved for the cine-literate, the tongue-in- cheek answer is no. However, the answer to the serious issue is 'a bit of both'. The irony is the films major interest, that being the protagonists own story, is both its strongest feature, but one of the main contributing factors into the films fall into the category of "entertaining" as opposed to "gripping". What intrigues is that this is the real life tale of a dangerous man, that we get a glimmer into the actual horrors of these crime stories, that everything is truthful, that nothing has been unnecessarily overblown purely for the purposes of revenue. Jacques Mesrine, as frighteningly portrayed by the excellent Vincent Cassel, is a man whose life is a nonstop roller-coaster of carnage and violence, he is a man who is utterly incapable of escaping the life he leads and what's more is that he has no notions of leaving it, not even when the wife of his two children pleads with him to remain on the straight and narrow. Cassel is a commanding on screen presence, managing to evoke a charm and sense of warmth from the audience as we cheer him on in certain circumstances, then being able to switch to a cold, calculating, carefree individual while maintaining the integrity of the character. Unfortunately, while Cassel's acting brings Mesrine to life on celluloid, the story which makes up "Part I" is confined to the existence he experienced and herein lies an issue. Through no fault of the criminal in question, Richet finds himself walking into an unexpected problem that is we, as an audience, have already seen everything. We have seen a man physical abuse the one person who loves him as something more than a hired gun in Goodfellas. We have seen a character return from the army to be corrupted by the lures of the "mob" lifestyle in The Godfather. We have seen fanciful shoot out sequences in Heat. We have seen hostage taking go wrong in Dog Day Afternoon, unfortunately for Mesrine his life is nothing new to those that have already been initiated into the film world, and while retelling these specific events from his own personal standpoint is not a cardinal sin the unoriginality with which it is filmed is.

Having viewed the initial five minute opening segment of "L'instinct de mort" you can be forgiven for expecting something more slick, stylish and, frankly, French than what is presented. Those opening moments hook the viewer instantly as, what we assume to be, Mesrine and a female accomplice cautiously and carefully try and escape from the police in what is an almost Rififi-esquire moment of cinema. No words are spoken, yet a cool bass line pulses in the background as the screen is broken down into boxes which show the two individuals attempting their escape from three different angles, each running a couple of seconds out of sync with the other. It is an engrossing opening, which is sadly never followed upon throughout the following duration of the film. Why this is not done is puzzling, because it is quite clearly the most original and stylish aspect of the film. Yes there are dens, mansions and parties that provide for shady, smokey, under lighted set pieces that provide atmosphere, and at the very least a setting, but there is nothing that quite grabs you again. The compositions and angles from a directorial standpoint renege any sense of individualism becoming, in the process, much more generic as the film progresses. Jean- Francois Richet must stand accused of allowing "L'instinct de mort" to disintegrate from crisp and unique to widescreen and Hollywood.

It's difficult to completely write the film off as it manages to tell an interesting story of a man that few in this country will have heard anything about, in a way that is familiar to the westernised audiences yet carrying a hallmark of being slightly different, if not entirely left field. The advent of the gangster film en mass, however, has somewhat deadened the impact this film could otherwise have possessed as they have all in their own ways seemingly taken any originality out of, what is otherwise, a nigh on implausible unbelievable story, only held together by the simple fact that it all occurred. Richet has undertaken a brave and bold project which has been met with generally positive reviews, and rightly so, it is just a desire of the viewer to experience more than a director simply opening a book and retelling the words from within. While "L'instinct de mort" is undoubtedly an enjoyable experience, the slight feeling of disappointment would have been lessened had the director perhaps shown more faith in his film making, been a bit more brave, a bit more stylish, a bit more brutal and shown the "killer instinct" needed to make a classic.
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9/10
Surprisingly good gangster film
Munin7517 August 2011
"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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8/10
I Really Wish It Had Not Been Split In Half.
jzappa17 November 2010
Mesrine: Killer Instinct opens on one of the most admirably up-front disclaimers ever to introduce a fact-based film, stating not merely that some of the events have been dramatized, or that names have been changed, but frankly that no movie can ever account 100% for the entire life of a person. Nevertheless, this first half of the story presents what sums up to a nearly simplified concentration on the proceedings present in most gangster stories. Comparable in some obvious ways to Goodfellas or Public Enemies but on the grander scale and somewhat in the artistically inventive vein of Che, Mesrine moves with blistering liveliness. Like Che, there's little or no exposition or elucidation between scenes or events, but unlike Che this develops a hurried rhythm. But Richet manages to present things in fresh and innovative ways at times. Mesrine's final day is seen first, in a multi-screened wall-to-wall juxtaposition of purposefully surplus and divergent angles. But as the film hearkens back to the beginning and starts to accelerate, it comes to explode with violence of Scarface proportions, a perhaps too bombastic orchestral score, and a virtually streamlined focus on the events we've seen in every gangster biopic.

After having seen this film, I've read a little more about Jacques Mesrine, who described all his robberies and killings as acts liberating him from the state, which may perhaps cause these films to elicit an above-average response for foreign films in the U.S., Killer Instinct finally making its way through flyover country at a peak time when Americans feel knee-jerk reactionary impulses to antagonize the state, impulses that will only dig us an increasingly deeper hole, just as Mesrine's do him.

Vincent Cassel is vigorous, forceful and captivating as Mesrine, personifying the man via decades of bodily and academic transformation, from his days as a fighter in Algeria, to his days of incarceration, to his most despicable impulses, offenses and displays, to instances of emotional and raw intimacy, to his sincere tussles with self-identity. Quite soon, we believe him as scared of nothing and with the capacity for anything. Cassel is in every scene, giving a simultaneously understated and massive performance of contradictory impulses, fierce animality and masculine overdrive. Richet encircles him with remarkable support, too. Gerard Depardieu is superbly boorish as an older gang boss who schools Mesrine in the thieves' code of honor, Gérard Lanvin is unrefined and fervent as a real radical with whom Mesrine establishes a partnership, and Elena Anaya is appealing as demure but highly effective partner in crime and love.

The film has numerous outstanding scenes, such as the one in which Mesrine meets Depardieu, and the two hit it off after threatening to kill one another. Or the one in which three guys take a night-time ride cracking wise, until the atmosphere delicately veers and one recognizes he's about to die. Or, of course, a relentlessly tense and truly audacious jailbreak. Still, the forfeit of making me wait for the second half of the story before I see the big picture is that Richet doesn't convey a consistent theme yet, not to mention a cogent narrative. He often appears to be after a modern kinship with a thug's self-imposed code of principle, the seal of Jean-Pierre Melville's hip 1950s and 1960s films, when the result is essentially a series of gut punches. But that is where its charm lies, as well as in the intermittent flashes of cinematic outlandishness. Enthusiasts of cocksure male renegade icons, car chases, gunfights, explosions and all-purpose carnage will be excited by Richet's magnum opus.
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8/10
A real-event-story elevated by fine leading performance
BeneCumb29 October 2018
/refers to both parts/

In general, I am not much into biographical crime films/series as I tend to know the outcome and then a big and important moment of thrill is lost. On the other hand, such works include less hare-brained and fabulous scenes which purpose is to "entertain" viewers and enhance "excitement". True, Jacques Mesrine´s life was crazy enough, plus showing the weakness of Western societies to deal with hard criminals and lack of technological opportunities to protect valuables. The script here is often uneven, with some excessive dialogues followed by (too) fast chases, but the performance of Vincent Cassel is always zestful, and one can have reasonably good overview of life in some countries in the 1960-70ies. For me, a nice change for stuff happening recently or to-be happened in the distant future - if bearing in mind sci-fi films and series.
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2/10
An expensive TV-film
AlcofribasNasier23 October 2008
The whole media thing about the Mesrine project should not be involved in one's artistic appreciation of this movie. Yet it is expensive, full of "provocative" elements, and exhibits under-employed movie stars, this is a shallow movie. The trendy steady-cam, and the outrageous amount of special effects do not make a great movie, but an expensive shallow bio-pic. Though one should be grateful to the French film industry for making a capitalistic effort, and trying to get rid of its habit of producing one sociological essay after another, Mesrine L'instinct de Mort has no substance. The narration is abrupt, without bringing any creative element but blur confusion, and dialogs are a sum of clichés, probably written in one afternoon on a restaurant napkin. E.g. the Spanish wife of Mesrine, who ridiculously mixes French and Spanish words in a lame attempt of realism ("I will go back to mi padre y madre's house" !).

Depardieu and Cassel are brilliant, it is a fact. But their characters are probably far below their true ability to be picturesque, and it is in vain that the viewer would try to understand their dramatic (or biographic) interest.

I really believe this movie is overrated, and the critic certainly salutes a desperate mobilization of energy in a dying French film industry, rather than its artistic, or informative value.
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8/10
Out or Dead
ferguson-629 August 2010
Greetings again from the darkness. Haven't looked at next week's new releases yet, but I am almost hoping for a rom-com after watching this film and "Animal Kingdom" back to back. That's a couple of very rough, though well made films.

Jacques Mesrine was an infamous French outlaw/bank robber/kidnapper who actually began to feed on his media coverage. This film, as well as part 2, are based on his own writings while he was incarcerated. Somehow Vincent Cassel captures the pure evil of Mesrine and presents him as the charismatic and powerful figure he evidently was.

Having apparently lost his soul during the war in Algeria, Mesrine joins forces with a local crime lord played by French acting legend Gerard Depardieu. Their wake of criminal activity is only eclipsed by the pile of bodies. No surprise that Mesrine's wife runs from him and he then hooks up with Jeanne, played by Cecile DeFrance. They seem to be the perfect match and quickly become known as the French Bonnie and Clyde. Only they are much more violent and brutal.

Mesrine manages a daring prison escape and even attempts to break back into the same prison to keep a promise of helping other prisoners escape. Director Jean-Francois Richet does an excellent job of displaying the menace of Mesrine and the absolute lack of morals he flashes.

The film never drags even while he is on the lam through Canada and the U.S. Since the film is broken into two parts (Public Enemy #1 will be released in a few weeks), I found it very interesting that the first films opens with what appears to be the end of part two. Maybe I am wrong, but that's how it looks.

The score is terrific and Mr. Cassel delivers his best performance yet. Not sure I recommend it as a double feature with "Animal Kingdom". They are both excellent films, but that's an overload of crime and violence for one weekend!
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8/10
Great first part
kosmasp29 October 2009
I guess if you're really looking for weak points of this movie, than you can find a few. First of, it's a two-parter and has an ending, that leaves you with almost nothing ... Except the desire to want to watch the second part. Then there is always the fine line, that movies like that are almost always more likely to be enjoyed at home, instead of the cinema.

And last but not least, if you are not aware of the real life character that Vincent Cassel is portraying (I wasn't), than the movie itself will spoil quite a bit for you ... On the other hand, you will only get bits and a few glances of some very interesting characters. Which could be kind of a shame, especially considering the A-List cast that gets assembled here (even in small/minor roles).

But if you can overlook all those things and are ready to watch the second part right away, then you will have a great thriller that you can enjoy (great performances included).
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7/10
Good thriller but does it lose it's grit?
paudie7 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
This is an enjoyable thriller based on the first part of the real life of French gangster Jacques Mesrine. Mesrine is played with real menace by Vincent Cassel. We see him first in the French army during the very dirty Algerian War of Independence. Back in France after the war he turns to old criminal friends when he needs money and finds he is a natural. He comes under the wing of a local crime boss (Depardieu). I enjoyed these scenes showing the gritty French criminal underworld. We also see Mesrine as a charmer with the ladies. He marries a Spanish girl who stays with him as long as she can when she realises he is a criminal. However he eventually makes it very clear that he will choose his criminal friends over her every time. We see in graphic detail how brutal and ruthless Mesrine was and had to be to survive and rise up this world. After a spell in prison he ends up having to flee France for Montreal after making too many enemies.

Here the pace of the film changes. The director seems to feel as if he has to make use of the wide open spaces of the New World and the film becomes more of an action thriller rather than a gritty drama. Mesrine and his girlfriend kidnap a former employer and then go on the run. They are caught in Monument Valley, which makes for great visuals but seems unlikely. Back in prison Mesrine and an accomplice break out of a (supposedly) top security prison and start robbing banks. They even go back to the prison to try and help their friends escape. Wild car chases and shootouts ensue. At this stage I thought we were almost veering into "Dukes of Hazzard" territory! The film ends with the two killing two forest rangers and a promise of the rest of the Mesrine story in "Public Enemy No. 1". So not as good as I think it might have been but good enough that I will make sure to see the second film.
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9/10
Tough but fascinating
info-1140011 May 2009
Warning: Spoilers
When Mesrine and Guido killed an Algerian pimp I instantly remembered "Goodfellas". But "L'instinct de mort" is an European version of that. That means it is a lot tougher, a definite lot tougher and more realistic than Scrosese's film.

Mesrine is depicted as an incontrollable, sociopathic character. There is no way to identify with this man. He is a horrible person. Someone I'd really hate to meet.

He is a stupid idiot: Attacking a high security prison with a friend and a couple of weapons only. He is a real bastard: Threatening his beautiful wife in a most despicable way. He is irresponsible: Leaving his children for a reckless whore.

The superb acting however keeps you interested, keeps you watching this mad person.

Violence is never funny in this movie. It is always horrible. It is no fun watching Mesrine and friends beating up some arabs, or killing some cops. It is not a justified act of revenge, when Mesrine gets tortured in prison.

Except for Depardieu the cast is brilliant. Cassel is so convincing in being a mad bastard. De France is really credible as his lover.

I did not like Mesrine. I didn't even really like the movie. But I was deeply impressed.

I was disturbed by the violence. Even though I do not have any problems with standard splatter movies.

But I felt like watching a true story.

"L'instinct de mort" is definitely a recommendation!
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