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Mesrine Part 2: Public Enemy #1
France, Canada
Crime, Drama, Thriller, Action, Biography
IMDB rating:
Jean-François Richet
Vincent Cassel as Jacques Mesrine
Ludivine Sagnier as Sylvie Jeanjacquot
Mathieu Amalric as François Besse
Gérard Lanvin as Charly Bauer
Samuel Le Bihan as Michel Ardouin
Olivier Gourmet as Le commissaire Broussard
Michel Duchaussoy as Le père de Jacques Mesrine
Myriam Boyer as La mère de Jacques Mesrine
Anne Consigny as L'avocate de Jacques Mesrine
Georges Wilson as Henri Lelièvre
Alain Fromager as Jacques Dallier - journaliste pour Minute
Alain Doutey as Le président du tribunal à Compiègne
Laure Marsac as La journaliste interview
Arsène Mosca as Jojo - un policier
Christophe Vandevelde as Inspecteur Gégé
Luc Thuillier as Le commissaire OCRB / Lucien Aimé-Blanc
Storyline: The story of Jacques Mesrine, France's public enemy No. 1 during the 1970s. After nearly two decades of legendary criminal feats - from multiple bank robberies and to prison breaks.
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The conclusion of French gangster Jacques Mesrine's story
After escaping from the authorities in Quebec Mesrine is back in France but he hasn't retired from a life of crime; he is still robbing banks and after escaping from court once again is declared 'Public Enemy Number One'. When caught again he vows to escape and a few years later he does just that. On the run with fellow escapee François Besse they calmly go into Deauville police station claiming to be police from Paris so they can determine what they will be up against before robbing a casino! This time it looks as if half the police in France are after them but they get away by taking a family hostage... then paying them for the trouble. After they split up; Jacques returns to Paris where he meets the beautiful Sylvie. He also meets up with old friend Charly Bauer, who is now a revolutionary. More crimes and mayhem follow until the film end just the way part one began; with Mesrine and Sylvie driving through Paris until gunmen opened fire on their car... this time though we learn who it was that shot him and whether he or Sylvie survived.

If you've not seen the first part of this story yet it is advisable to watch it first as that provides the necessary introduction to Mesrine; no time is wasted here introducing him again. This may be based on a true story but it is just as exciting as most fictional thrillers in not more so... many events that occur would seem far-fetched in a work of fiction but what we see here really happened! That of course can be a problem too; Mesrine is a charismatic character but he can also be brutal and knowing certain events really happened is disturbing; this is particularly true in the scene where he beats and then shoots a journalist. As in the first film actor Vincent Cassel gives a brilliant performance as Jacques Mesrine and he is ably supported by the likes of Ludivine Sagnier and Mathieu Amalric who play Sylvie and François respectively. There are some extremely brutal moments but if you can get through those this pair of films make a gripping story that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to adult viewers.
Vincent Cassel Masterclass
I think it's common knowledge how the film ends, but I won't divulge for those that don't know. Public Enemy No. 1 is far more action packed and seems far more 'Hollywood' than the comparatively quieter 'Killer Instinct' - unsurprising though, considering it's the business end of the Mesrine story.

Cassel is the driving force behind the whole film, without him it would have been an average to good film - with him it's good to great.

I don't know where everyone stands as far as the real life Mesrine goes - hero or villain. I certainly put myself in the villain camp, and so does Cassel and it shows.

From the offset we see that all though Mesrine can speak passionately, lucidly and 'rabble rousingly' it is always characterised by an impenetrably brash and brazen arrogance which is NEVER counterbalanced with any vulnerability to make the character more endearing. Jacques Mesrine's inherent evil is often masked by a jocular bravado and his monologues justifying his way of life are mesmerising - but you're never convinced enough to actually like him. Therein lies Cassel's greatest achievement in the film - to create a character for which all you can feel is antipathy but nevertheless to find him intriguing enough to carry on watching.

Certainly, he does afford us some light touches. I smiled as he boasted at the beginning of the film of being Public Enemy Number 1; his face being Gallic nonchalance personified, as well as the scene of him and his accomplice Francois Besse (played by Mathieu Almaric) trying to cross a river.

Besse provides a solid sidekick for Mesrine to flourish, telling Mesrine that they are not 'luminaries' soon after Mesrine's interview where he tries to elevate himself to hero status with the most simplistic of demagogic arguments: "I don't like laws and I don't want to be a slave to those laws in perpetuity" (to paraphrase).

I do have some small criticisms, such as Anne Consigny's (who incidentally appeared with Almaric in 'Wild Grass', 'A Christmas Tale' and 'The Diving Bell and the Butterfly') unconvincing role as Mesrine's corrupt solicitor. Her face seems just too honest.

That petty criticism aside I'd give the film 7.5/10, giving the benefit of the doubt it's an IMDb 8.
Cassell apart, a little disappointing
This second part of the story sees Mesrine lose his direction a little - what is he doing it for? He starts to see himself as a revolutionary, opening up some avenues for the film to explore. However, considering the run-time of the films when put together approaches a whopping four hours, we see very little of the vacuous, empty soul of this disgusting man. By far the most revealing scenes of the whole thing occurs when he is in prison in the first part. The terror he experienced is not built on. All we see in this part is surface.

As a result, we know very little about Mesrine after watching this film, except that he hated the capitalist system he waged war on. Of course, perhaps there is little you can say about him without humanising him. I know Cassell, a powerhouse of an actor who carries the film in the manner of a Brando or De Niro, wanted to give an honest portrayal, without causing excessive sympathy for his character. However cinema can do so much to convey depth and humanity in all its glory and terror, sometimes in a single shot or line, and that is lacking here both in the writing and in the direction, which (and this is a flaw of many biopics) is too episodic and even paced to create much drama or interest other than that brought by the efforts of Cassell.

Perhaps a tighter single volume would have been a better film, even if it meant leaving out some details of the story, perhaps a braver editor might have cut some of it down. But this film is too long and delivers too little. Maybe its just not that good a story to tell?
Rogues And Richets
As an actor - and I use the word very, very loosely - Vincent Cassell has two strings to his bow, two parts he can play to a fare-thee-well; clean-shaven sociopath and sociopath with facial hair and he gets to display both in this second film glorifying violence. Cassell is complemented by Ludo Sagnier coupling - in every sense of the word - two of contemporary Frech Cinemas' non-actors. Luckily for the audience there are some REAL actors in support in the shape of Anne Consigny, Olivier Gourmet and Mathieu Amlaric, all of whom presumably needed the money for this, like its predecessor could just as easily have been called La Merde de Paris, though that would have been insulting to two other REAL actors, Jean Gabin and Arletty and one REAL director, Marcel Carne. Being the son or daughter of a fine, popular actor/actress is not of course easy - one thinks, for example of Guillaume Depardieu, Jim Mitchum etc but for every three or four of them there is a Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave or, in France, a Claude Brasseur. Jean-Pierre Cassell was an exceptionally fine French actor who graced some distinguished films and his son, Vincent, might have had the decency to change his name if, as is clearly his intention, he wants to forge a career out of portraying ultra violent sociopaths.
Lands successfully between crime thriller, gangster saga and character study

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.
Part deux
I'm guessing, that you have watched the first part, before you go on and read any reviews about Part 2 of Mesrine. A reviewer wasn't satisfied, because the movie seems like a 200+ min movie cut in half. Well I guess the user is right, but should that affect your rating/how you like the movie?

I don't think so, but then again, you have to make up your own mind. The movie itself is based on the real life character, portrayed greatly by Vincent Cassel. Unfortunately you get reminded quite a few times how this movie will end. Which is OK, for the french audience who already know how the story ended, but for people like me, who didn't know that much about the person, it was kind of a spoiler.

Still even though I knew, what was going to happen, the ending was filled with tension. It is shot and edited in a great manner and kept me on the edge of my (cinema) seat. And even as I was telling myself, that the ending was obvious, I still couldn't stop from being excited. Maybe it's only me, but this deserves your attention, even if it's only on the small screen (TV).
Somewhat underwhelming, but an acceptable conclusion nonetheless
Filmed back-to-back and released a month apart, the two movies chronicling the violent, exciting life of French bank robber Jacques Mesrine were undoubtedly meant to be a high point in the careers of both director (Jean-François Richet) and star (Vincent Cassel). At least, that was the case with the first installment, Death Instinct; the follow-up, Public Enemy Number 1, isn't quite as accomplished.

It starts exactly like Part One, with the scene of Mesrine's death, only this time we're shown the reactions of the public as well, especially that of a police office named Broussard (Olivier Gourmet). We then go back in time to witness Mesrine's multiple criminal acts, arrests, trials and successful escapes. In fact, one could almost say he gets caught on purpose in order to plan a stunning break-out. During one of his lengthier stays in prison, he befriends another crook, Jean-François Besse (Mathieu Amalric, Bond's adversary in Quantum of Solace), and once the two are out of jail they form a nearly perfect team alongside Mesrine's new wife Sylvie (Ludivine Sagnier). Too bad good old Jacques has been declared the French nation's biggest menace, which effectively authorizes Broussard and his team to take him down if necessary.

The title, which is obviously taken from the real-life scenario but could just as well be a homage to William Wellman's celebrated gangster picture, would appear to indicate the film is tonally similar to Death Instinct. It isn't. Whereas the first part was a dark crime film, the conclusion is a lighter deal, a caper, so to say, in the same vein as Steven Soderbergh's Ocean's trilogy (in which, coincidentally, Cassel had a pretty important role). Perhaps it was a deliberate choice to make the second chapter more fun, an ironic contrast of sorts to the bleak ending, but as a result the picture comes off as less interesting from a psychological point of view. Amalric, in particular, while delivering a charismatic performance, isn't given a proper chance to develop his character like Cassel was able to in Death Instinct. As for the leading man himself, his work is still riveting, but even he suffers from the lighter mood and lack of focus (he's still the best reason to watch the movie, though).

Nonetheless, the film moves at an acceptable pace, showcasing good set-pieces and giving Richet the opportunity to switch genres within the same movie. It doesn't quite work as expected, but the mess he handles is still a lot of fun, even if not truly worthy of a figure as complex and fascinating as Jacques Mesrine. Well, at least he's always got the first installment to look back on fondly.

A Vincent Cassel performance
This is definitely entertaining and a command performance by Vincent Cassel. It took me awhile to get into it – for part I that is.

The story is more or less straight-forward. It's about a thug who robs banks, intimidates his adversaries- sometimes brutally and escapes from prison any which way he can. It kind of resembles Scarface, but it is certainly not like the Godfather (I and II). It lacks subtlety (that's what I mean by straight-forward) and most of the characters who partner with Mesrine are more or less interchangeable and don't add much to the story. It's Mesrine and the action that drives this film. When it tries to get too serious; as with his wife, and many girlfriends, and the pseudo- revolutionary conversations, the film starts to sputter and wither – until the next action scene.
Worse than the first
Both Killer Instinct (Part I) and Public Enemy No. 1 (Part II) seem to be intended as action films; you see them to be entertained rather than to find meaning. Despite this, Killer Instinct still managed to maintain a somewhat believable tone that this part quickly lost.

The music throughout is painfully generic and overblown. In the final scene, action music races while Mesrine and his girlfriend are walking on the sidewalk and then stuck in traffic for a solid five minutes. Elsewhere generic action scores grow tiresome as the violence also grows repetitive.

A number of characters overact in Public Enemy No. 1, particularly the policemen in the last scene. It seems the director tried to force an extra ten minutes in of showing Mesrine inconsequentially strolling around, which the viewer knows won't lead to anything as we've already been shown the conclusion to this scene, while the police watching him panic and pant. I found Vincent Cassel's acting to be much better in part one than part two as well, not to say it was particularly exceptional in Killer Instinct in the first place. He fell into some of the overacting utilized by some of the more minor actors. He was better in La Haine. Mathieu Almaric and Ludivine Sagnier were better.

The writing in this film becomes overindulgent of Mesrine's self justifications. One would think that his rantings aren't meant to be taken seriously but for the fact that they are played up as dramatic monologues in scenes such as the interview. If this was intended to come off as misguided self-righteousness rather than a serious social critique, the director failed to convey that.

On a basic level Public Enemy No. 1 was also much less exciting than the first. As far as part II's plot goes, Mesrine is pretty much riding out the hype that he built up in part I. The action sequences are fewer in number and on a smaller scale.

Overall, it did the job in that it was mildly entertaining. Despite this, the action of this half of the story line wasn't as much so as in Killer Instinct, and as a result the director seems to have used cheap techniques such as an overblown music score and overacting to compensate.
Maybe I am Dangerous
Greetings again from the darkness. This is part two of director Jean-Francois' tale of famed criminal Jacques Mesrine. As in part one, Vincent Cassel delivers a frightening performance of this psychopath who is addicted to the spotlight, danger, women and little else.

The second film drives home the point that Mesrine was little more than an aggressive hoodlum. What I mean by that is that he was no criminal mastermind. No real strategist. He just steals when he needs money and then quickly helps the press fill in the blanks on his escapades. Watching him swell with pride as he is pronounced France's Public Enemy Number One is just plain creepy.

Ludivine Sagnier (so great in "Swimming Pool") plays Sophie, his last girlfriend. Watching her reaction to her dog being shot in the final shootout tells you all you need know about her and her relationship with Mesrine.

Much of this part is based on the police chases and the efforts put into "catching" Mesrine and his accomplice. His new partner in crime is played by the terrific Mathieu Amalric ("Quantum of Solace", "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"). Amalric has the steely eyed stare that give him the chops to hang with Cassell.

While I truly admire Cassell's performance in these two films and I find them extremely well made, I still feel a bit empty about the subject matter. Mesrine was a brutally violent criminal who managed 3 daring prison escapes, numerous bank robberies, kidnappings and killings. However, there is just not much depth to the man. Maybe it's true ... some people just want to see the world burn. No matter what, these two films should be seen as close together as possible. This is ONE STORY cut into two pieces. Set aside 4 hours and see the entire thing.
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