Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 (Part 2) (2011)

Mesrine: Public Enemy #1Note: This DVD presentation is a direct continuation of the Jacque Mesrine crime saga that began with "Mesrine: Killer Instinct." If you haven't seen that film, you will probably want to in advance of screening this one. Both theatrically and for DVD distribution, this film was split into two distinct parts and packaged separately. There are, however, international DVD versions available that have the complete product--if you choose to go that route and buy only one DVD, just make sure that the DVD is compatible with your DVD player.

Branded his country's Public Enemy No. 1 for his international exploits during the sixties and seventies, Jacque Mesrine's notoriety brought him a certain celebrity status. With murders, bank heists, kidnappings, and bold prison breaks--Mesrine embraced his lawlessness with a flair and flamboyance that have maintained his cult appeal even thirty years after his death. Adapting Mesrine's own memoir, writer/director Jean-Francois Richet has divided Mesrine's escapades into two feature films. The first--"Mesrine: Killer Instinct"--charts his initiation into a gangster existence and his rise to worldwide attention while this follow-up "Mesrine: Public Enemy #1" charts the height and end stages of his criminal career. Where the first installment was an episodic character study that explained Mesrine's descent into crime, this film boldly takes on the appeal of a full fledged action epic.

Don't expect any back story or recap going into "Public Enemy #1." The narrative starts right off with an exciting court house escape and the momentum rarely wanes. Vincent Cassel delivers a performance of much power and charm as the relentless Mesrine. These years (the seventies) have Cassel embracing his criminal notoriety and fame. Filled with bravado, Mesrine toys with the cops and fashions himself a true celebrity bad boy. Heck, the most brutal sequence in the film is directly related to Mesrine have received some unfavorable press! Mathieu Amalric, as a fellow escapee and part time partner, makes for an interesting foil and ally to our outlaw hero and Ludivine Sagnier has some bright spots as Mesrine's opportunistic girlfriend.

But, in truth, this picture--and indeed the entire saga--belongs to Cassel in a true star performance. The film is fast paced, surprisingly funny, and infused with high tension. Even in the finale, where you know what is going to happen, the director shoots the sequence with so much precision and tenseness--you'll be at the edge of your seat. I genuine liked the first film even if the episodic nature kept things at a somewhat superficial level. But, I loved this follow-up! One of the better true crime stories I've seen in a while, it's one I would easily recommend if you're interested in the genre. And one more shout-out to Cassel, he really is awesome! KGHarris, 4/11.

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 be 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-Fran├žois 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 Fran├žois 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, April 11

Buy Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 (Part 2) (2011) Now

Good movie! I lived there when this went down and found it true in the details. More movies like this.

Read Best Reviews of Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 (Part 2) (2011) Here

Lots of moody looks take the place of action or actual progress. Cassell is very good in both movies, as usual.

Want Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 (Part 2) (2011) Discount?

As an American with an appreciation of French cinema, I enjoyed "Mesrine: Public Enemy #1" (MPE1), but wouldn't rank it alongside the best gangster or crime movies from the U.S. or the U.K. The filmmakers do an excellent job of recreating the scenery, clothing and hairstyles of the 1970s, and the movie has its moments of suspense. However, American audiences are likely to compare it to the many thrillers that fill our cineplexes, and MPE1 doesn't quite measure up. The gunfights and car chase scenes are just not as powerful; in fact, when a cheap Renault getaway car gets spun around and dented in MPE1, I chuckled a bit at the thought of such an underpowered car being used by criminal masterminds in a life-or-death situation. I guess it's better than a Vespa...

The primary reason why "Mesrine: Public Enemy #1" can't compare to over-the-top thrilling crime movies such as "The Dark Knight" is that MPE1 is actually based on factual people and events. There really was a Jacques Mesrine in France who robbed banks, murdered several people, and escaped from prison multiple times. MPE1 does adhere to the basic facts of Mesrine's actual life story, at least as it is captured on Wikipedia.

Vincent Cassel gives a decent performance as Mesrine. At times Mesrine's viciousness comes through, but much of the rest of the time Mesrine is clowning around or strutting about with his chest puffed out. I wondered if Cassel was perhaps playing the role a bit too much for laughs, but maybe this is the way that Mesrine really was. The chief question posed by the film is: why did Mesrine do it? At times he claims to be a revolutionary, at times he wants revenge for the suffering he and others endured in prison, at times he lusts after the money, and at other times he just appears to be doing it for the thrills. It is up to the viewer to draw a conclusion.

Ludivine Sagnier achieves absolute perfection as Syliva, Mesrine's favorite "objet d'affection". She doesn't make her appearance until halfway through the film, but oh what an entrance it is. Sylvia instantly captivates Mesrine, and Sagnier does the same with every viewer who appreciates female beauty. In all her scenes she is absolutely gorgeous, and one can see why Mesrine wanted to shower Sylvia with jewels. Sylvia herself is an interesting character, and her priorities and feelings towards Mesrine are debatable until the very last scene of the movie. Certainly Mesrine is the more famous character, but I think an interesting movie could also have been made of Sylvia's life leading up to and beyond her relationship with Mesrine.

The supporting cast is mostly excellent, especially Mathieu Amalric, who gives a haunting portrayal as a criminal associate of Mesrine's, and Georges Wilson, who gives a wonderfully understated performance as an elderly kidnap victim. The version of the film I saw was dubbed in English, which was slightly distracting, but probably less so than subtitles would have been, especially in the action sequences. All in all I would recommend MPE1 if you are interested in the Jacques Mesrine story or if you would enjoy a trip back to France in the 1970s. But if you are purely in the market for an escapist thriller, there are more thrilling options out there.

Save 25% Off

No comments:

Post a Comment