Friday, August 21, 2009

Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1

Written by: Abdel Raouf Dafri

Directed by: Jean-Francois Richet

Starring: Vincent Cassel, Ludivine Sagnier, Mathieu Amalric

Rating: 9/10

The second part of Jean-Francois Richet’s epic telling of French modern-day outlaw Jacques Mesrine’s complicated, compelling life picks up where the first left off; with Jacques being extradited from Canada to France. Where the first film focussed on his audacity and wily ways, the second part focuses on his growing addiction to fame and notoriety. The first part of the film begins with a note on how every story has many different perspectives and that this is just one perspective on this man’s life. This is re-examined when Jacques becomes so infuriated at General Pinochet stealing his spot on the front page of the newspaper that he decides to write an autobiography. The script, whose source material is the autobiography up to this point, calls the books authenticity into question and suggests that Mesrine exaggerated a lot in order to garner more attention for himself.

As Jacques Mesrine begins to age, he begins to get more and more desperation to give his life meaning or, it could be argued, media relevance. He dreams of being considered a revolutionary and tries to make his crimes politically engaged, most notably the kidnapping of a notorious slumlord and the murder of a right-wing journalist. However, the film takes great pains to ensure that the audience knows that Mesrine’s motive is purely self-promotion.

Most of the film’s third act leads up to Mesrine’s death scene (which we have already seen at the start of the first film). A remarkable climax ensues, which shows the police setting up an extremely elaborate scenario in which to assassinate him. A now pudgy and still short Jacques Mesrine walks down a street and we see hiding policemen cower in fear beside him. This is an interesting view of his stranglehold on the world and how intimidating a figure he had made himself. The sequence follows his every step, quite monotonously and tediously, until we see in gruesome detail the aftermath of the police’s assassination.

The second part of this film doesn’t quite live up to the breathless exhilaration of the first part, but it keeps building on the character and allowing him to change and develop which is admirable. As in the first movie, Mesrine shows a soft side, only to prove it doesn’t run very deep. This happens on a number of occasions and it suggests on several occasions that although he may know that to be human means you have to love and be loved, Jacques Mesrine is not capable of it, as much as he tries.
This is a brilliantly made film. Stylish, yet never at the expense of the story. The performances are top-notch and there are enough political and spiritual implications here to keep this movie on your mind for days afterwards. However, politics and spiritualism aside, this is a cool movie with lots of gore and lots of action. It is by no means short of entertainment. As with the first film, I whole-heartedly recommend this to anyone, even those of us who aren’t fans of the genre.
- Charlene Lydon

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