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MESRINE: PARTS 1 & 2

Director: JEAN-FRANÇOIS RICHET

FRANCE-CANADA • 2008 • SUBTITLED • COLOUR • ANAMORPHIC • DIGITAL • 113 MIN.


This is a special preview screening of Mesrine Parts One and Two. Admission €15 (€12 concessions).MESRINE: KILLER INSTINCT (MESRINE: L’INSTINCT DE MORT)
VINCENT CASSEL TEARS UP THE SCREEN IN THIS PULSATING GANGSTER CHRONICLE, WHICH PAYS HOMAGE TO THE CLASSIC HOLLYWOOD CRIME FLICKS OF THE EARLY ’70s — BUT WITH AN EXTRA SHOT OF BADASS GALLIC ATTITUDE.

Downright notorious in his native France, bank robber and prison escapee extraordinaire Jacques Mesrine led such a wildly excessive life that it has taken two separate films, an all-star cast and a Ä45 million budget to pack it all in. This first instalment opens with Mesrine’s still-controversial assassination by undercover police in late 1979, before whisking us back to its subject’s formative army years in Algeria — an experience which left him familiar with firearms, jobless on his return home, and furnished with an abiding contempt for authority. While Cassel’s electric presence is always centre stage, Gerard Depardieu is in imposing form too as the Paris crime lord who hands this young upstart a few lessons in loyalty and ruthlessness before internecine carnage — and the galvanising effect of gun-toting femme fatale Cecile de France — send Mesrine’s nefarious career into its international phase.

Director Jean-François Richet knows his William Friedkin movies inside out and puts the pedal to the floor as the story barrels through the years. It’s an exhilarating ride with no shortage of incident (the whole section in Quebec’s toughest prison might have made a movie on its own), yet it’s no slavish imitation. Cassel’s protagonist is swaggering, charismatic, but also capable of the sort of cold brutality Hollywood simply couldn’t countenance from its leading men. Mesrine’s contradictions compel, and part two can’t come soon enough. — Trevor Johnston.
FRANCE-CANADA • 2008 • SUBTITLED • COLOUR • ANAMORPHIC • DIGITAL • 113 MIN.

MESRINE: PUBLIC ENEMY NO. 1 (MESRINE: L’ENNEMI PUBLIC No. 1)
AS IF HE WAS MERELY WARMING UP IN THE FIRST HALF (KILLER INSTINCT), VINCENT CASSEL PUTS ON THE POUNDS AND DONS MYRIAD DISGUISES IN THIS CESAR-WINNING PERFORMANCE AS THE SELF-MYTHOLOGISING SUPERCROOK MESRINE, WHO CUT A SWATHE THROUGH THE HEADLINES IN 1970’s FRANCE AS PUBLIC ENEMY NO. 1.

It’s a performance to rank with De Niro in his prime, and it grounds the story as Mesrine’s elusive exploits continue to leave us gasping in their wake. Cannily, director Jean-François Richet shot much of this section first, allowing the bulked-up Cassel to shed his impressive gut for the character’s slimmer younger days, while this time the star’s chief playmates include a spry Mathieu Amalric as an understandably wary fellow fugitive, and Ludivine Sagnier as the seductive moll who’ll learn the hard way that the jewelled baubles which come with the territory do so at a heavy price.

Since the preceding Killer Instinct has already forewarned us to expect extremes of spontaneous daring and chastening cold steel from the man, the focus here shifts to Mesrine’s need to keep sustaining his flamboyant reputation with yet more snook-cocking illegality — and the quite possibly deluded sense that he was making a political statement in the process. Neither of the films judges their protagonist, though here the timing is especially deft. Just when we’re about to fall for Mesrine’s intoxicating bluster, we see him perpetrating another act beyond the pale of acceptability. With its adrenalin-charged action and freewheeling sense of transgression, this is certainly no heavyweight rumination on moral responsibility, but neither is it some facile hagiography. Mesrine: remember the name. — Trevor Johnston.
FRANCE-CANADA • 2008 • SUBTITLED • COLOUR • ANAMORPHIC • DIGITAL • 133 MIN.

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