Mesrine: Public Enemy Number One
Second part of biopic on France's most notorious bank robber
Part two of Jean François Richet’s epic account of the contrary life and times of France’s most famous bank robber and criminal mastermind Jacques Mesrine – we are now in the realm of myth and self-deception.
Written, like it’s predecessor, by Abdel Raouf Dafri, Public Enemy Number One is based more directly on Mesrine’s self-aggrandising and largely made up book The Death Instinct, written in Sante prison in 1973. At this point Mesrine had robbed so many banks that he was well on the way to being public enemy number one, but ever the optimistic, and concerned with his legacy, Mesrine knew he needed to be more than just a common thief. In following his attempts to align himself with more radical political groups and his burgeoning skills as a master of disguise, Richet’s second film unfolds as something more freewheeling and as enjoyable as a good caper movie.
Playing off Mesrine’s alleged charm (whether he is taking hostages or escaping from a prison) with his more cold blooded sense of self preservation, star Vincent Cassel and director Richet keep us guessing all the way as to what is true and what is not in this globe trotting, undeniably fun and exciting story of greed, violence and courted celebrity. Richet rolls out action scenario after scenario, all beautifully realised and full of the kind of energy and thoughtfulness that can only be brought from repeated viewings of Mike Hodges’ Get Carter, Peter Yates’ The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Sidney Lumet’s The Anderson Tapes and of course Brian De Palma’s Scarface.
That the film is marked by Mesrine’s inevitable stroll towards his own Paris boulevard gallows at the hands of illegally contracted police snipers does not stop Richet from lingering to enjoy the scenery. The mighty Mathieu Almaric turns up as an uptight convict who joins Mesrine on the run. Richet allows this episode to descend into a convict-on-the-run comedy. Delusion and mythology take over for a moment. Mesrine would have approved.
Selected release from Fri 28 Aug. (15) 113min.