Mesrine: Killer Instinct (15)
Mesrine: Public Enemy No 1 (15)

Killer Instinct: 7th August - 3rd September 2009
Public Enemy No 1: from 28th August 2009
Screening at FACT
Directed by Jean-Francois Richet
Written by Abdel Raouf Dafri

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

This two part biography profiles an extraordinary gangster, Jacques Mesrine (Vincent Cassel), once described as France's public enemy number one, a title which he relished.

Mesrine: Public Enemy No 1 adds to the story of this repellent but charismatic character, as portrayed in the outstanding opening section of this double-hander, vividly directed by Jean-Francois Richet. The split screen effect utilised by him in the first film is particularly striking.

In some ways it appeared unnecessary to create a second film, with it being a rehash of crucial parts of Killer Instinct. Both of them are based loosely on Mesrine's autobiography, which he wrote during several spells in prison.

Both films are not for the fainthearted with several brutal scenes of violence, notably a man being buried alive and a reporter being kicked to death by Mesrine. Also chilling was when Mesrine thrust a loaded gun into the mouth of his wife.

He turned to crime after returning from Algeria, where he served in the French army. His robberies and kidnappings grew ever more audacious as his bravado rapidly increased. On one occasion he held up two banks on the same road within minutes of each stick-up.

As well as being able to dish out violence, Mesrine was equally strong in withstanding brutality meted out to him. The scenes where he is confined to solitary confinement and repeatedly assaulted are harrowing to watch.

But his end came - depicted in both films - when he is ambushed while travelling in his car with his partner-in-crime (Ludivine Sagnier) and gunned down by the French police, recalling the way both Bonnie and Clyde died.

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