Mesrine, Part 1: Killer Instinct; Part 2: Public Enemy No.1 (France/Canada, 2008)

600full-mesrine_-killer-instinct-posterDirected by: Jean-François Richet. I’m not sure who other than Vincent Cassel, what other French actor working today, could pull this off. This could owe more to my limited familiarity with contemporary French actors, but I digress. Come to think of it, nearly every great French-speaking actor I’m fond of is in these films. Joining Cassel is the larger-than-life Gérard Depardieu, the smoothly intense Mathieu Amalric, and the irresistible Roy Dupuis. You’ll notice, I’m not at all familiar with any of the incredible French actresses that fill these films, and that definitely owes to my lack of familiarity. Each one of them brings a unique and differentiating dimension to these discrete parts of Mesrine’s life, which was certainly defined by his romantic entanglements as much as anything. These two films could garner an awfully long discussion, but to pick one thing (perhaps the most trivial thing), I couldn’t help but point out a common trend that I’m noticing as I look at world gangster film: the comparison with American gangster films. As I’ve documented elsewhere, it seems that Western critics are incapable of digesting a gangster film except in relation to either The Godfather, Goodfellas, or in this case, Scarface (De Palma, obvs). Fair enough: those are hugely influential films. But, to be frank, watching Cassel be Mesrine is way more fascinating than watching Pacino do “Say hello to my leetle friend.” I mean, come on.

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