Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1

The second part to the epic story of France’s most renowned gangster, Jacques Mesrine.

Where the first film follows a reasonable story arch, but remains episodic, this film seems to abandon the narrative and instead jumps through the remaining years of Mesrine’s career and life.  It reminded me a little of reading a biography; which, of course, it probably should.  However, it reminded me of reading a biography that I got bored of, i.e. I start reading it intently and then flick to the bits I’m really interested in from about half way onwards.

The episodic film that worked so well in the first instalment became more similar to a sketch or clip show.  I guess, at having established the character there was little more to show, other than a particularly lazy interview sequence.  By lazy, I mean that having the lead character get asked a series of questions, it meant the film did not have to show anything more than that.  In the first instalment, I felt that no such sequence was necessary, as the film showed a subtle enough touch to provide the audience with information without having it delivered straight to them.

Cassel was as engaging as ever, although I did feel that there was little to stretch him in this film.  Although Cassel did show himself to be equally at ease performing comedy, as he is at playing pure rage.  He was ably supported by Mathieu Amalric, with their scenes together bordering on laugh out loud funny.

Dispersed within the comedy sketches are absolutely edge of seat heist, escape and action sequences.  These parts, for me, with their accompanying score made the film.  Without these, it would have seemed a very disjointed effort.

However, one sequence that was really overcooked was the sequence involving Mesrine and his girlfriend leaving their house only to have their car blocked by the police: the first film opened and ended with this sequence, albeit shown in different views and the second film did the same.  The last of which was excruciatingly ponderous and added several minutes onto a film whose story had already been told.

Overall, I felt that I would have been happier sitting in the cinema for 3-4hours watching the first film unfold into a more complete view, than to sit through 2 films of 2 hours that don’t seem to sit quite right next to each other as a single vision.


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