Skip to main content

Mesrine: Public Enemy Number 1

Mesrine: Public Enemy Number One is on the one hand very similar to its predecessor, Mesrine: Killer Instinct. It follows the exploits of gangster Jacques Mesrine who robs banks, kidnaps millionaires, escapes from prison, and has women falling for him despite a career that will most likely end with his body filled with lots and lots of bullets. Yet, the character himself has changed and embraced the change. Jacques knows he is famous and loves it.

To be fair, this guy was famous for a reason. Early on in the movie he escapes a courthouse by taking a judge hostage with a gun that was hidden in the bathroom. I guess The Godfather hadn’t come out yet, otherwise the cops escorting him might have been wiser. When he is arrested again he not only chooses to defend himself in court, but to defend his lifestyle. He takes a jab at the justice city by demonstrating how corrupt it is and wins the public’s affection with humour. In the prison he is furious to see that he is not front page news because some dictator called Pinochet has taken over Chile. To counter this, he decides to write a book recounting his adventures. His lawyer is horrified that he would be stupid enough to write about his crimes, but don’t worry he says, it is all embellished to please the public. Mesrine clearly knew how to feed his fan base.

He also clearly loved living on the edge. Another great moment echoes the scene in Michael Mann’s Public Enemies when John Dillinger walked into a police station filled with cops who were looking for him. Mesrine and his accomplice François Besse (Mathieu Amalric) go a step further by walking in a police station and pointing at their very own wanted signs and asking the officer in charge if they have been spotted in the area. Mesrine and Besse are in disguise during the conversation, but you have to admire the size of their…boldness.

Vincent Cassel once again does a great job of portraying this man who was both charismatic and prone to violence. When interviewed by a reporter about his lifestyle he comes off as very articulate, intelligent, but you can see that there is a violent man underneath the charmer. That violence erupts when a different reporter publishes a story questioning his honour and sense of friendship. Mesrine subsequently beats the reporter to death in a cave as retribution. It proves to be a mistake, since as it turns out there is such a thing as bad publicity.

The director, Jean-Françcois Richet, stages some beautiful shots, such as when the camera is following Mesrine’s new girlfriend Sylvia (Ludivine Sagnier) walking down the streets of Paris. When soldiers are sent to track Mesrine and Besse in the woods a wide shot shows the troops emerging over a hill side by side in perfect unison.

What comes off as uneven is the sequence of events before Mesrine’s last stance. Police officers are hiding in cars waiting to ambush him in a street. One is afraid that he will be spotted and turns off his radio out of fear of being heard. It would be more suspenseful if the audience didn’t already that he has nothing to fear. If you have seen the previous movie you know how this will end for Mesrine. Then again Mesrine must have known as well. He did say he did not expect to grow old.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #85: Blue Velvet

Exactly how do you describe a David Lynch movie? He is one of the few directors whose style is so distinctive that his last name has become an adjective. According to Urban Dictionary, the definition of Lynchian is: “having the same balance between the macabre and the mundane found in the works of filmmaker David Lynch.” To see a prime example of that adjective film lovers need look no further than Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986), which does indeed begin in the mundane before slowly sinking in macabre violence.
My first introduction to the world of David Lynch was through his ground breaking, but unfortunately interrupted, early 1990s TV series Twin Peaks. This was one of the first television shows to grab viewers with a series-long mystery: who killed Laura Palmer? A mix of soap opera, police procedural, and the supernatural, it is a unique show that showed the darkness hidden in suburbia and remains influential to this day. Featuring Kyle MacLachlan as an FBI investigator with a love for …

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #90: When Harry Met Sally...

There is an age-old question regarding whether single men and women can be just friends. In real life the answer is obviously “yes,” but in movies and TV the answer always has to be that at some point two single characters will get attracted to each other and move beyond friendship. On TV I find this to be contrived and overused, but some movies can have a lot of fun with the concept, most notably Rob Reiner’s comedy classic When Harry Met Sally…(1989). It may not change your view on love and friendship, but it forever changed the meaning of the phrase “I’ll have what she’s having.”
On paper this film’s premise sounds like another rom-com, but seen by oneself during an evening of Netflix binging it does make you think about deep stuff like the long-term impact of your decisions on your life. A person you meet during a tense trip might turn up again sometime later down the road in the most unexpected ways. If there is one thing I believe in it is infinite possibilities, and Nora Ephron…

Empire Magazine (2008) Greatest Movies List - #83: Brazil

Dystopian movies from the 1980s are a funny thing since we now live in the future of those movies and if you look at the news for more than five minutes it will feel as though we are one bad day away from being into a dystopia. On the plus side, if it ends up looking like the dystopia portrayed in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil (1985) at least we will have lovely architecture to look at while the government is busy telling us how to think. This might not be a movie that will cheer you up, but the production design is amazing, the performances are great throughout, and you get to see Robert DeNiro play a maintenance man/freedom fighter.
I first saw Brazil as a Terry Gilliam double feature at the Université de Sherbrooke’s movie club paired along with 12 Monkeys around ten years ago. Those two films are similar in that they both feature a rather dour future and, as with most Gilliam movies, incredibly intricate sets. However the dystopian future in Brazil is somewhat scarier than the disease-ra…