133 of 138 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent film (x2)
I read a little bit about Mesrine before going to see this movie so knew a little on the background of this in advance. The storyline, the direction, the production and above all, the acting (not just Cassel), is second to none. Vincent Cassel plays the part of Mesrine with an ability that is normally only credited to actors such as De Niro. Indeed, the way Cassel is...
Published on 23 Nov 2009 by Mr. K. Lean
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Killing by numbers
Many outside France will not have heard of Mesrine, but apparently he is a bit of a folk hero to some there. I read about him in East End Gangland & Gangland International which was handy, because if I had not, I would almost have assumed from the film that he was a fictional character (opening disclaimer aside). This is because of the levels of both ruthlessness and...
Published on 29 Jun 2012 by E. Granter
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133 of 138 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent film (x2),
I read a little bit about Mesrine before going to see this movie so knew a little on the background of this in advance. The storyline, the direction, the production and above all, the acting (not just Cassel), is second to none. Vincent Cassel plays the part of Mesrine with an ability that is normally only credited to actors such as De Niro. Indeed, the way Cassel is able to say so much and in fact, change the entire mood of a scene, with just an expression is certainly reminiscent of Mr De Niro.
Apparently when Mesrine was at his crooked peak in France, he became something of a pop-icon, anti-hero for the disenfranchised people of Paris. This is depicted beautifully in this movie because, despite his abhorrent crimes, there is something incredibly cool and likeable about him.
I have to take my proverbial hat off to the makers of this movie (and part 2) for making such a thrilling ride from start to finish. Like one of the other reviewers say, this sounds long at 2+ hours but each scene is action packed.
If you want a break from the usual boil-in-a-bag hollywood movies, do yourself a huge favour and buy this.
52 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The great escapist,
This review is from: Mesrine - Parts 1 & 2 [Blu-ray]  (Blu-ray)
This is a review of the Blu-ray version (Parts 1 & 2), which together form a biopic of French armed robber Jacques Mesrine from 1959 to 1979.
At 247 minutes for the combined parts, you might need to plan well in advance to watch this highly-rated biography of an egotistic but popular criminal of the 1960s and 1970s, but the time passes quickly - especially the first part. As a Blu-ray presentation it was a waste of extra money and the standard def version is all that's needed. As a story it would normally be regarded as absurd, particularly the multiple prison escapes, but the reality is that most if not all events covered actually did take place, this being a true story (or at least, it's based on true events). It could be likened to Bonnie & Clyde in many ways, as for the most part it shows bank robberies, escapes, and more bank robberies - with a police force eventually fronted by one man determined to bring the target down.
Vincent Kassel, as the leading man Mesrine, totally carries the film, and very convincingly so. He becomes something of a Robin Hood-like anti-hero, despite killing a lot of people during his robbing sprees, and when he eventually becomes France's Public Enemy Number One, he relishes his fame and wants to hang on to it. He is outrageously brazen, not only escaping from prison but then keeping a promise to return to that same penitentiary to help some of his former inmates escape too. In between heists he comes over as a genial, larger-than-life character who if he had led a crime-free life might have built up a huge social circle of friends and admirers, but having chosen the murderous life that he did, his life-style is inevitably one of loneliness due to relentless moving around to escape recapture - and he wasn't always successful at that.
It's very good, and although there is no English audio version as yet this barely spoils the entertainment. There isn't a great deal to it, however, outside of Mesrine himself, with fellow armed robbers and girlfriends popping up and then disappearing along the way. To be fair, the film is all about him and it most definitely is just that, but there's a slight shallowness to the story; it's not documentary in style but it is, ultimately, a dramatic portrayal of the key points in one man's twenty-year criminal career with nothing more of substance to it than that. It's vital, therefore, that Kassel holds our interest for four hours - no mean feat - and he does manage to do that, helped somewhat by some very impressive physical changes that reminded me slightly of RAGING BULL with Robert De Niro. At the beginning of this film, Mesrine is lean and fit, but twenty years later he is packing the beginnings of a pot belly and his overall body shape has bulked up all round. I can only assume that Kassel put on quite a few kilos for the latter stages of the film, because it didn't look like artificial body padding.
So while it's undoubtedly good and definitely worth seeing, I have to confess to being a touch disappointed that it wasn't as special as I had expected it to be. It's worth buying, because I can imagine it being watched more than once, but to be objective about it, it's no classic and as is so often the case with films based on true stories there's something of a dramatic vacuum that is filled (and filled well) with the staging of several real-life events, and that often comes at the expense of a thought-provoking script or multi-layered story-telling, both of which are absent here if truth be told. But that's to take nothing away from Vincent Kassel, he IS Mesrine and he is the film, he's always magnetic in presence and while he's probably a little bit more likeable in the film than Mesrine was in real life, he still makes for great entertainment.
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb acting, outstanding gangster movie,
This gripping French film, a biopic of the 'most wanted' French criminal Mesrine (pronounced May-Reen), is highly recommended if you like gangster movies (Bonnie and Clyde, for instance), have a strong stomach and yearn for something different to the usual Hollywood treatment of such stories. I don't know how true to the facts this is, so I can only judge it on entertainment value and by that measure it scores highly. The exhilarating story of Mesrine's criminal career from start to finish is spread over two full-length films and there are not many dull moments. But what really makes this riveting, even between the many action sequences, is the extraordinary performance of Vincent Cassell in the title role. Mesrine is appalling and terrifying, yet also charismatic and at times likeable and Cassell makes this outrageous character completely believable. This is acting of the first order. Any minuses? Well, if you expect to gain an understanding of how a boy from a respectable home grows up to be a violent criminal you might be disappointed. There are scenes that provide some reasons but these were the only bits of the whole film that I found less than totally convincing. Maybe the truth is that we don't really know and should give the makers credit for not just inventing things. Hate subtitles? I'd say go for it anyway, it's so good you'll soon forget about them. Final warning: this film pulls no punches; it contains scenes of sickening violence and I find it surprising that it was not given an 18 certificate.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Nobody kills me until I say so.",
Even at more than a combined four hours and two films spanning three continents, the hugely ambitious epic crime biopic Mesrine can't fit in all of the exploits of France's own public enemy number one of the 60s and 70s in, but it does manage to combine some exhilarating setpiece robberies, getaways, shootouts, prison breaks and even, bizarrely, a real-life attempt to break into a maximum security prison he'd just escaped from to free the other prisoners alongside an increasingly convincing tendency to undercut Jacques Mesrine's own inconsistency, hypocrisy and hollow self-aggrandizement and self-deceiving rhetoric he constantly conjures up on the spot to play up to the media (admittedly mostly in the second film). Aside from a superb career-best lead performance from Vincent Cassel, there's an especially impressive supporting cast, including familiar faces like Mathieu Amalric, Gerard Lanvin and Gerard Depardieu, lesser lights like Cecile de France, Michel Duchaussoy, Samuel Le Bihan, Olivier Gourmet and Georges Wilson and unfamiliar but perfectly cast faces who still manage to make an impression with brief scenes in a huge ensemble.
Part one, L'Instincte de Mort, sees Mesrine recently demobbed from military service in Algeria. Stifled by civilian life, he drifts into crime and finds that he's good at it, soon finding himself working with the criminal wings of failed terrorists like the SAO and QLF. Even though Depardieu's gangster tells him that crime is a game you can't win, he initially seems to be beating the odds, even balancing a married life with a criminal career before things escalate and he finds himself on the run in America and Canada. Although it hints at the darker parts of France's recent past - not just the torture in Algeria we see him participate in but also an older generation who collaborated with Nazis who now lack the moral authority to be listened to - the first part observes rather than judges, often playing like a superior gangster picture directed with real verve and style by Jean-Francois Richet. But although the real dramatic meat is to come in the second half, Richet and co-writer Abdel Raouf Dafri manage to pull off the feat of being exciting without excusing his more reprehensible acts. We may be carried along with the terrific excitement of a prison breakout and attempted prison break-in finale, but he remains a contradictory, Quixotic figure, as likely to torture a pimp for mutilating a whore as to put a gun in his own wife's mouth to end a domestic argument.
Part two, L'Ennemi Public No. 1, makes more of an attempt to find an explanation and undercuts his myth-making image as he gets caught up in his own impulsive hyperbole and self-deception as he goes from far right to far left without ever believing in anything but whatever he's just thought up to justify himself, no matter how inconsistent it may be with his previous actions. When visiting his father in hospital - while on the run - all he can offer in explanation of his life of crime is "It's how I am," but his victims and partners in crime have a clearer picture. A slum landlord who knocks down his own ransom points out that for all Mesrine's posturing, they're fundamentally similar - both like fine things and don't mind extorting honest workers to get them - while a revolutionary points out that Mesrine doesn't `attack capital,' he flatters it. One cop even accuses him of overacting during his arrest, while at times he seems to reinvent himself in the image an initially infatuated press suggest if he thinks it sounds good - at least until he loses their support when he beats and shoots a reporter. He always has to have the last word, self-justifying and egocentric, constantly left by his sidekicks and partners in crime, and it's pretty clear that he's the architect of his own destruction as he increasingly careers off the rails. Having made his way to Public Enemy Number One, he's determined to play the part to the end while never really taking in what that really means.
There are problems: there's one hysterically funny shot-in-Canada `London' street scene that throws in so many clichés - red buses, black cabs, brollies, bowlers and Bobbies - it's like an outtake from an Austin Powers film, and Ludivine Savignier still can't act her way out of a paper bag but at least has nothing to do here as his last moll that's beyond her limited ability. Perhaps more worrying, there are a couple of major sins of omission (inevitable with a criminal career as prolific as Mesrine's), particularly regarding a couple of the more brutal murders he was accused of in the first part that feel like they were removed in case audiences felt less inclined to sympathise with the brutal treatment he receives in prison, but the film does subsequently make amends with further acts of unnecessary violence to avoid turning him into too much of a tabloid hero. But overall there's far more to admire than disappoint here, and it manages to do what Michael Mann's Public Enemies failed to do - explain how and why one criminal caught the public imagination in a vividly realized period setting, carrying you along with the sheer audacity and momentum of his crimes but not overlooking the dangerous character flaws that drove him to his own destruction or the fact that he took plenty of innocent people with him along the way. Easily the best crime film from any country in years.
The UK DVD release includes both films on a two-disc set with excellent 2.35:1 widescreen transfers - and the film itself looks terrific throughout - though with fewer extras than the BluRay release doesn't really show any noticeable improvement in picture quality due to cramming too much onto a single disc.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cassell magnificent in true tale of violent criminal,
Staggered that I hadn't heard more about Jacques Mesrine prior to watching this outstanding movie. Brilliantly researched, almost unbelievably true, with actual locations used throughout, the story of France's public enemy #1 is incredibly watchable despite the appaling violence of its subject character. For me the violence was justified in the telling of Mesrine's story of outlaw, prison escaper, gangster and bank robber. Cassell is on fire here, bringing to life the swagger that appealed to as many french people as it terrified. Hugely recommended viewing, if not for the faint hearted.
33 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A nostalgic violent thriller with superb performance from Vincent Cassell,
This is the first of the two part 'Mesrine' films based on the true-life story of one of France's more colourful bank robbers. It's filmed in true 1960s French style, grainy, split-screen and the detailing of the rise of the criminal, French style, contrasts with the rise, say, of Tony Montana in 'Scarface'. The French just have their own way of doing things, and Mesrine, although violent, uses bravado and cunning intelligence as well as a winning smile to get what he wants.
Vincent Cassell is superb: a true chameleon, he performs best in his native language (this is a French film with English subtitles). He can snap at any moment and his volatility drives the plot forward. Cecile de France was almost unrecognisable in a black wig and she plays her role in an ultra- realistic way.
The film is long but it never drags - not once - and is violent from start to finish. It is also very French, and if you are used to Hollywood cop-killer fodder then this will either be a breath of European fresh air or an education or both. There is no lingering between scenes, or even years. The director and editor have cut this movie very tightly.
Well worth a look.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Part 1 is Good, Part 2 Even better = Superb,
Goes through the gears and a phenomenal drive. Had to keep checking wiki to see if it was true and it was. Extraordinary and a performance by cassell to remember forever. Not many films I would watch again but this is a double whammy.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great film and performances,
This review is from: Mesrine - Parts 1 & 2 [Blu-ray]  (Blu-ray)
I'm a bit of a francophile, but it's been a while since I was tempted to actually buy a French film. I've just converted to Blu-ray so decided to give this a try based on the reviews. This really is a great film - I had not heard of Mesrine in popular French culture, but he is there! However, I would advise against Googling him until you have seen the film, as much of it is fairly true to real life events. The acting is superb, with Vincent Cassel playing the main part with genuine skill and conviction (so to speak). If you're used to subtitles, then there will be no issues. If not, I still think the power of the film will mean that you almost forget about them - I am fluent in French but still needed a bit of help from the subtitles, as there is a lot of colloquial French in the film. Overall, a bit of a masterpiece. The second part is as good as the first and kept me glued! I recommend this!
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best of the genre,
Being a great lover of French thrillers I found it amazing that it took me so long to get around to purchasing this dvd - was it worth the wait? Definitely.
This film oozes class from the acting to the camerawork and Vincent Cassel excells in the lead role - it cannot be easy portraying a likeable then despicable character from one scene to the next and for it to seem so natural.
I am not a great lover of the gangster genre as I think it is full of stereotype, unecessary violence and bad language - for the sake of it/or to shock. However this film never falls into that trap and the movie moves along too quickly for the viewer to become complacent. A MUST buy.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars After all, for someone who was in prison with maximum security, there are no rules. Like me, I live without rules.,
The Seventies were good years for charismatic French gangster Jacques Mesrine. Except, of course, for the last five minutes. Mesrine tells us his story in two parts: Mesrine: Killer Instinct and Mesrine: Public Enemy Number One. Each film runs about two hours. It's quite a ride.
Jacques Mesrine, in an outstanding performance by Vincent Cassel, captured the French imagine in the Seventies. He was born in 1936 to middle-class parents, went to good schools as a boy, demonstrated a taste for violence and probably found his criminal career in Algeria as a count-insurgency paratrooper and, so it was said, killer of prisoners. Whatever the truth, Mesrine, back in France and out of the army, became a full-time criminal specializing in bank robberies and burglaries. And what a criminal. He was shrewd, unpredictable, violent one moment, playful with his daughter the next. He'd rob a bank with a partner, then notice another bank down the block and run over and rob it, too. Other criminals learned to cross him, or just mispronounce his name, at their risk. During his career he managed to kidnap two millionaires from their country mansions, one in Canada and the other in France. Both times he carried it off with bravado and a crazy kind of belief that what he'd planned would work. Occasionally he'd be caught, sent to prison and then escape. When he landed in La Sante, a tough, maximum-security French prison located in Paris, he escaped again...in broad daylight...in a mixture of audacity, luck and determination.
Mesrine seemed to think he was invincible. He also believed he'd die young, not the least of his contradictions. As Cassel plays him, he is a figure a person can't keep from watching. Cassel's Mesrine isn't handsome, but a dangerous, unpredictable, confident and, at time, charming gangster who has little trouble finding women to share his bed and partners who, initially, anyway, join his schemes. As his notoriety grew, so did his ego and his sense of injustice. He gave interviews to the press and even wrote an (unreliable) autobiography. He killed a few people along the way, not always fellow gangsters. The French police were fit to be tied. And then we come to the last five minutes of Part Two.
The two movies are episodic at times. They jump from Paris to here and there, including the Canary Islands and Quebec, following Mesrine's unpredictable criminal life. Both movies are well cast, with actors who look as tough as Cassel. Gerard Depardieu in Part One plays Guido, a kind of mentor to Mesrine. He almost steals the show. Ludovine Sagnier as Sylvie Jeanjacquot, Mesrine's last woman, is as fine an actress as she is good-looking.
Cassel, however, is what makes these movies. Like Belmondo and Bogart, he qualifies as a dominating male lead actor despite his considerably less than handsome looks. Style, confidence and talent - plus a camera that loves you - don't need a chiseled profile.
Remember, the next time you're in a smoke-filled Paris bar and you think you see him at a table, it's pronounced "may-reen." Good luck.
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Mesrine - Parts 1 & 2 [Blu-ray]  by Jean-Francois Richet (Blu-ray - 2010)