Thursday, 11 April 2013

Not Film, er, 2009 but a film review anyway: Mésrine Part 1 - Killer Instinct (or, better late than never)

Funny what turns up, isn't it? Scrabbling for something to write on in the side pocket of a sports bag yesterday, I happened upon a little notebook that I hadn't used in some considerable time. It was mostly empty but near the front I had made a few notes and, on the 10th of August 2009, scrawled a just-legible film review for the French gangster epic "Mésrine part 1 - Killer Instinct". Here, unedited, it what I thought back then.

Cassels in double-hard in thisDisillusioned with the army, disappointed in his father, Jacques Mésrine's (Vincente Cassels) path towards his ultimate status as France's public enemy #1 is set when he falls under the wing of small-time crime boss Guido (Gerard Depardieu). It quickly becomes apparent that Mésrine has a talent for all things criminal, and a confidence with the more physical aspects of his career choice (this is a violent film, but not gratuitously so). It also becomes apparent that he puts himself, and the respect and companionship that comes from his work partnerships, ahead of family life, forsaking his wife and child in a literal "us or them" moment.

After leaving a mob associate crippled, Mésrine and Jeanne, his new partner (both romantic and criminal), flee to Canada where they become minor media celebrities after a botched kidnapping. Mésrine in particular likes this brush with fame, and it is difficult not to wonder if this will be a telling factor in part 2 of his story, released next month.

Mésrine's incarceration in a brutal Canadian prison ends with his escape and, incredibly, his later attempt to jailbreak the remaining inmates. By contrast, Jeanne doesn't want to be sprung from prison, and her relationship with Mésrine ends there.

Cassel's performance as the anti-hero Mésrine is compelling - he is on-screen for almost all of the film's two hours. It is a testament to the strength of his performance that, even though his character is a damaged individual with sociopathic tendencies, you root for him - you want him to get away, to escape.

Depardieu's cameo as Guido is also excellent, a suitable compliment being that his performance would sit well in an early Tarantino film.

There, that's it, that's all I wrote. No top and tail, no summary, just a straight synopsis and a few observations. Maybe I planned to wait until I'd seen "Mésrine Part 2 - Public Enemy #1", I can't remember. What I will say is that both films are good, and Part 1 is bordering on terrific. I should also reiterate that these are French films, so if you don't like subtitles, well, maybe that's an issue for you. For everyone else, hustle over to Amazon where, four years later, you can pick up both films on DVD for less than nine quid.

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