This second part of a highly acclaimed French action crime biopic perhaps has what audiences wanted more of in Michael Mann's stylish Public Enemies.
The follow-up to Killer Instinct, Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1 (in French with English subtitles) continues the brazen derring-do rampage in its own propulsive outrageous 1970s bravado.
Vincent Cassel again is the unsympathetic, unrestrained Jacques Mesrine who earlier was befelled with over a dozen gunshot wounds to his chest and head as wife Jeanne (Cecile DeFrance) perished during a shoot-out. An all too-incredible milieu on view is bookended by the amazing demise of a paunchy, philiosophical and politically-minded criminal whose writings have been compared to the likes of Albert Camus.
Snappy, if somewhat less lively than Killer Instinct, helmer Jean-Francois Richet creates some dynamically elaborate set-pieces through a pretty palpable gritty kineticism with disguises for someone with a mystique about him.
When Mesrine has finally been snared by authorities, he feints his way through a courtroom from the assistance of chum Charlie (Gerard Lanvin). His latest rampage includes more kidnapping of higher-ups and, of course, bank robberies. When arrested (again), he'll reproach a dogged detective (Olivier Gourmet) before escaping (again) by means of fellow criminal Besse (Mathieu Amalric of Quantum of Solace) while meeting Sylvie (Ludivine Sagnier of The Swimming Pool) who'll become Jacques's latest missus.
The cocky confidence and nastiness are out there for all to see for something with more dimensionality as Richet doesn't treat Mesrine with the notoreity he earned. A dark, telling psychological drama Public Enemy No. 1 isn't with snap-shots of character in a rough, segmented tale of a life into the manipulation of police, government, and media.
For a driven figure who adopted ideologies similar to revolutionaries as seen in The Baader Meinhof Complex, Cassel isn't fazed by the narrative constraints to find nuance into an avaricious man continuously on the run, instilling a memorable mean charismatic presence. And, it's a plus where acting, filmmaking have a cheeky, punchy originality to it that the backup from Sagnier, and, especially, Amalric doesn't go unnoticed. This final Mesrine still may be too detached for some in spite of its remarkable, breathtaking honest brutality.
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