Jacques Mesrine was a flamboyant French gangster whose life story is so spectacular that one film was not enough and so there are two; Mesrine: Killer Instinct, was the first and Mesrine: Public Enemy #1, is the sequel. Both are equally compelling.
Mesrine embarks on a life of crime after he serves his time fighting in the Algerian war. He robs banks, gets away with much but is finally caught and imprisoned in 1962, at the age of 26. He escapes from jail and flees to Canada where his career flourishes and the government eventually name him ‘Public Enemy No. 1’. He returns to his homeland in 1972 where his exploits become more and more flamboyant and when a French newspaper writes an article about him, Mesrine responds; thus his love affair with the press begins.
The first film, Killer Instinct, shows us Mesrine’s love of women, guns and glory and we watch as he risks his life, sometimes for no reason, and hold our breath as he saunters away from the chaos that he creates. But in Public Enemy #1, there is so much more. This film lets us in on some of Mesrine’s secrets, and as we listen to him rant about the injustices in the world, we slowly begin to realize that his ideals are so egocentric that they are, in fact, only fantasies, fashioned to accommodate his own selfish needs. As basic as this is, crawling inside Mesrine’s mind still feels like quite an honor and brings us closer to the scoundrel on the screen.
There is another side to Mesrine that is dark and brutal but the French filmmakers, unlike their Hollywood counterparts, do not shy away and they present Mesrine at his psychotic worst, acting out barbarically against a journalist who wrote something to which he took exception. It is a chilling revelation and a key to what drives the reckless behavior that takes him to the edge more times than we will ever see.
As dark as the spell is that Mesrine can cast, so he can spread light. He doesn’t need streamers or balloons to party, he doesn’t even need people, he just needs to be. To have the ability to live in the moment is a glorious trait but such optimism is so uncharacteristic of his countrymen it seems that he could be a little more unbalanced than was originally thought and it’s possible that this guy really has no idea that he is actually French.
Release dates –
(Tokyo International Film Festival)
(French Film Festival)
(San Francisco International Film Festival)
(Festival du Film Francophone)
(Edinburgh Film Festival)
(Seattle International Film Festival)
(Helsinki International Film Festival)
(Fantasia International Film Festival)