Spoiler Warning

Always assume Spoilers and possible profanity in context. These are often adult themed movies.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Jack Falls

What Happens?

"My name is Jack Adleth, at least that's what it says on the death certificate. I used to be an undercover police officer, which means I've done some terrible things. Enough is enough. It's time to walk away." Our title character Jack (Simon Phillips) tells us in the opening scene, as he walks away, only to be shot and killed. Lucky for Jack, his friend Natasha (Olivia Hallinan) is close by and gets him to a local Amsterdam shady doctor, who agrees to help but warns of "complications" as his brain has been without oxygen for an undetermined amount of time. Jack gets stitched up and is given Natasha's volunteered blood and sleeps for three days.

Waking, Jack of course wants to figure out who killed him. Jack asks about concerns in London, and Natasha informs him that "Carter" has taken over from her own deceased father as the new crime boss. Jack doesn't need much to convince him that Carter is his only logical suspect. Natasha readily encourages his thinking. She reminds him that Carter (Alan Ford) has a hold on everything in the city, and the cops can't even reach him. "Yeah well, it's a good job I'm not a policeman anymore."

While Jack recovers, we meet "The Boss" (Tamar Hansen) who has heard that Jack is dead, and informs one of his men, Dominique (Peter Barrett) that "To lose a man is worth it, to keep the others in line. You do know that don't you?" They agree that Jack was one of their best, and attributes the loss to karma. Dominique expresses some concern about the ends taken to achieve their means and the Boss explains "Nobody cares about the means. That's why Jack did the job."  When the underling insists on a questioning tone, the Boss gets angry, reminding him that it was his job to keep Jack under control, adding "It all went tits up and I had to deal with it. End of!"

Jack takes some tests at the doctor's insistence. He's concerned that Jack may lose memory or hallucinate due to his brain missing oxygen while he was dead. While discussing this, Jack sees his dead partner Sid, (Neil Maskell) although he denies hallucinating to the doctor. Against the doctor's advisement, Jack insists on leaving. The doctor cautions him against exerting himself, as it could start him bleeding again. While making a call from a payphone Jack is interrupted by his dead girlfriend saying "You can't trust him." before vanishing. Jack drops the phone and walks away and we see the Boss speaking to the air. We then see the Boss speaking with a hit man, about Jack's body not being found, and then about Carter. The hitman insists that Jack is dead and refuses to help with Carter as it would be a conflict of interest.

Meanwhile, Jack quickly disregards the  doctor's caution in order to save a baby, whose stroller got away and fell in a river. The grateful parents want to celebrate his action but Jack insists that he wants no attention, asking the father to keep the cops away from him. Alone, his dead partner Sid again confronts him, saying "Saving babies now are ya? It won't be enough. Go back to London. Finish it. For me." Jack tells him to leave but Sid comes back with "You'd jump into a rat infested river for a total stranger, but you weren't there for me. I thought we had each other's backs"

Jack and Natasha spend some time "laying low." in Amsterdam. Jack tells her that he will take care of Carter as well as get her her "inheritance. He tells her that her father, the previous crime boss, had all kinds of money hidden away, which appears to be a surprise to her. They discuss Carter locking her out of the family business and Jack assures her that he trusts her and they return to London.

We find Carter giving orders to his dimwitted thugs, and then criticizing his young girlfriend, Xanthe's (Annie Cooper) shopping habits, shooting holes in one of her unworn dresses. She tells him to relax as they have more money than they can spend. Carter complains that since he controls everything things have gotten too easy. He "misses the fight." Xanthe manages to calm him down.

Jack and Natasha find an apartment to hide in, although unknown to them they're spotted entering it. They fight over the fact that Jack hasn't thanked her for saving his life and it comes out that she saw the hitman aiming at him, and shot him in the arm. Sid appears, cautioning Jack not to trust her. Natasha storms out and Jack's dead girlfriend Erin (Rita Ramnani) appears again, telling him he should leave, as nothing good will happen here. She calls him away from the door he's standing in front of just before some thugs shoot holes in it. He has enough notice to get the better of them, using an ice skate to incapacitate one.

He leaves the apartment and finds his old friend Carly (Jing Lusi) who lets him stay at her place. She tells him her brother has been looking for him. Natasha has showed up at Carter's in the meantime, attempting to claim her part of the business. Carter isn't very kindly disposed towards her, and tells her the only thing he can offer is a job as a prostitute if she wants it. She's enraged when she sees her father's ring on his finger. Carter has her escorted out.

Jack looks through photos of Erin, reading a note she wrote him telling him to leave his life behind and look for her, (if it's not too late, which of course, it is) and then dreaming of her. We then meet Detective Edwards (Dexter Fletcher) investigating the scene Jack made at Natasha's apartment. He has a glass sent out for fingerprinting and asks that the results be sent to him personally

Jack, back at Carly's is feeling bad about not saving Erin and Sid. Carly offers to stay with him, but Jack argues with his SId hallucination, which she assumes is directed at her and leaves. Detective Edwards runs into Carly at the bar where she bartends, and gets a call about the glass, confirming that the prints are Jack's.
Jack narrates that the only cop he ever knew that was "straight down the line" was Edwards, and we see Jack finding Edwards on a bus. Edwards reveals that he has trouble keeping secrets since he was assigned a partner to keep tabs on him. Jack tells Edwards that Carter had him killed, but Edwards doesn't believe it, saying Carter doesn't have it in him.

Officer Domique finds Natasha on the street and has her taken to the station despite her protests. Jack gets a gun and goes looking for Carter. Natasha is questioned about Jack's death. She insists that he was dead and has an outburst when she's needled about callin Carter Daddy. The Boss ends up taking over the interrogation telling her they need to talk about Jack.

Carter meanwhile has a meeting with the hitman that the Boss had seen earlier. Carter guesses that he has him to thank for taking out his "favorite undercover pig,"  (Jack) and thanks him, revealing that he didn't pay for it. Carter shows him a picture of his intended target (the Boss) and the hitman exclaims (Jesus, you two really don't like each other do ya?"

Jack continues trying to figure out what happened, while wresttling with his ghosts, while the Boss', Carter's and Natasha's interests start converging, leading after a few complications, to a showdown with a different ending than you might expect.

What About It?

Jack Falls is not a movie out to reinvent the wheel, but a movie that really enjoys being what it is; a straightforward revenge film drawing freely from the film noir play book. It clearly loves the genre it exists within and it shows. This is an independent film, written by Paul Tanter and directed by Alexander Williams and Paul Tanter (who also wrote the graphic novel it was based on.)Williams and Tanter do a great job giving us a film that is a treat to look at. Black and white never hurts a noirish story, and the consistent splashes of color throughout, give the film the effect of having it's own language. Rather than come across as heavy handed symbolism, the color serves more to keep us interested in the act of looking at this film. I'm sure, given it's graphic novel origins, and the black and white with splash of color filming, it will draw a comparison or two to "Sin City" but beyond those basic facts the comparison ends. This is a realistically shot film without gimmicky special effects (not that I'm knocking Sin City, mind you)  These characters are not "larger than life." In many ways they're smaller, so crippled by their own baggage.

Certainly a cast of top notch  actors helps here. Simon Phillips is a perfect Jack, although the nature of the character may minimize notice of Phillips' ability. This is not a Robert DeNiro gangster or a Clint Eastwood cop. Jack is as much Hamlet, as he is an action hero, right down to the "to be or not to be" dilemma. Constantly second guessing based on the advice of ghosts (or hallucinations) he is competent, but unsure. As Jack Falls is the third part of a story, (preceded by Jack Says, and Jack Said) we don't see what Jack has done exactly, but we know that he failed to save people that were vital to him and holds himself responsible. Jack has no great love for his life, yet he is comfortable with violence, and he is committed to settling scores as long as he is alive. Despite his guilt, he can't let someone killing him to go unanswered. This character comes across as extremely fallible. He's smart enough, but not always the smartest guy in the room, although he catches up eventually. He's a pretty straightforward guy, surrounded by devious plotters and manipulators. This creates great tension as it leaves him very vulnerable. While he typically listens to Erin, his "better angel," it's always possible that he'll side with Sid, the voice of retribution. He remains essentially good, his downfall is that he will never think of himself as "good enough" having already lost all that mattered to him.

You may notice that much of the cast is familiar from "Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels," and "Snatch." Yet, the actors and the fact that it's British and concerned with crime are the limit of that comparison. Once again, it's a very straightforward story with it's own sense of style. Certainly Alan Ford's Carter will recall those roles, but that's only because he's so great at playing a humorously brutal crime boss. Here, you see those same elements, but he is a bit more humanized. Even in control of the city's crime, he is still in the shadow of his predescessor, Natasha's father, who was respected by everyone. He is certainly not happy about being perceived as an inferior substitute, but contents himself with the power and with Xanthe's company. Despite his very distinctive mannerism's Carter is very different from Snatch's "Brick top" and is as fallible in his own way as Jack is.

Olivia Hallman is perfect as Natasha, probably the most complicated character in the film. Her loyalties are son constantly conflicted, we wonder if she even knows her own agenda. She has her father's intimidating legacy to live up to and lacks the stomach or firepower to truly claim it herself. Jack is certainly useful in this regard, but she does have a fondness for him as well. Certain revelations cast doubt on her trustworthiness, but all the same, she has difficulty picking a side. Dexter Fletcher is the moral compass of the film, the only character that truly is what he claims to be. His performance is outstanding and he brings out the life in every scene he's in. Adam Deacon is good as Hogan one of Carter's thugs. Jason Flemyng has a terrific couple of scenes as Jack's brother Damien. Peter Barret, Jing Lusi, and Annie Cooper are also perfect in their parts.

Tamar Hansen is truly remarkable and his always (except for once) blue shirt is the most effective use of the color splash technique. He has a gravity to him, which turns out to be well warranted towards the end of the film. Easily the most formidable character, yet his flaw is that he overestimates his reach and misses the reach of others.

The color splash technique also makes a lot of sense for showing the Sid and Erin hallucinations, particularly when someone else living is in the room. We're able to see both what Jack sees and what really is without confusion. The deep and bright color choices also lead to some scenes that aside from any significance, are just lovely to look at. The bright green field, which Jack dreams of, set against a black and white background is arresting and many other scenes have that effect.

More than anything else, Jack Falls, from beginning to end, is a film about living with consequences and no character is untouched by the idea. The Boss' fixation with karma fits into this quite nicely and we see that regardless of how you try to balance the scales, you're going to pay a tab or two you'd rather avoid. This is a world where trusting anyone (except maybe Edwards) appears outright foolish. Jack and everyone around him live in lies as a matter of business, as he says at one point to his imagined psychiatrist "I never broke, I lie to everyone." Jack is a guy who saves a baby from drowning and immediately ridicules (via Sid) his own efforts, saying "It's not enough" Jack is hopless enough that it's doubtful he believe there is an "enough" The things he's done, or failed to do, can't be compensated for. Yet, the character does show an effort towards growth. In contrast with his quest for revenge, he ends up in a place where he can overlook at least one betrayal, and even suffer willingly for the person who betrayed him.

He has the voices of both Sid and Erin and he weighs them both, preferring Erin's which suggests that he's perhaps not completely lost. While there is some action in the film, it isn't an "action film."  The real confrontations are verbal and psychological, with the threat of the physical behind them. Tanter treats the violence as a natural part of the story, yet quickly dealt with on the way to the destination. We get that Jack can take care of himself very well, but if given a choice he would rather not have to. Even after his brother is killed, Jack is hesitant to kill another, although he is certainly not squeamish when he decides. Perhaps he would rather avoid more guilt to carry around.

I enjoyed the use of the traditional noir conventions; femme fatales, dirty cops, double crosses. Jack Falls doesn't hide it's influences but instead uses them logically, where they fit. As a result, we get an entertaining dark story. Watching it on it's own terms, without comparison to the films I mentioned, gives you a good solid story of a guy in way over his head, trying to lose as gracefully as possible, while hoping that karma will look the other way once in awhile. Being  a part of a series, I'm interested in seeing what went before, both in film, and the graphic novels, but it stands well on it's own, giving you everything you need to understand these characters. All in all it's a solid good time, very true to it's roots, and comfortable in its own skin. It's all the more impressive for being an independent with a first time director involved. I only hope we see more work from Williams and Tanter in the future.

This was just released, and DVD for "Jack Falls" is available from Amazon.uk here:

The film trilogy; Jack Says, Jack Said, and Jack Falls is here:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mesrine Part 2: Public Enemy #1

This film is the second part of the Mesrine saga, although it stands on it's own just fine. The first film Mesrine: Killer Instinct, showed us Mesrine's climb from regular guy to notoriously famous gangster. Public Enemy Number 1 shows us what he does once he gets there. The opening mirrors the first film, starting at the end just like Killer Instinct, only a few minutes later. We saw that Mesrine and Sylvie were surprised by many policemen aiming guns at them from the back of a truck they were stopped behind in traffic.

Here we pick up at the same scene "Porte De Clignancourt, November 2, 1979" with police, the press and a large crowd, surrounding the bullet riddled car. Any ambiguity is gone as we see a reporter interviewing Broussard (Olivier Gourmet) the policeman in charge of the anti-Mesrine task force, made up of men from The Anti crime unit and the Special Tactical Unit. He tells a reporter that there were 30 men involved and that all went according to plan. Broussard claims that Mesrine opened the door without surrendering, despite a warning. They knew he was armed so they fired. We get a good look at the bloody body of Mesrine slumped into the steering wheel before Broussard pulls him out for the men with stretchers.The crowd is agitated but he's loaded into a truck and driven to the morgue.

We then move back to 1973 where we find Mesrine in a police station, calmly smoking a cigar while an officer takes his statement. He gets angry with the typist for pronouncing his name "Mess-reene" rather than "May-Reen." His concern is acknowledged and the officer asks him about his associates, Grangier and Ardouin, who Mesrine claims he's never heard of. The officer clearly doesn't believe him.

We skip to a nightclub where Mesrine is warmly greeted by some friends, Grangier and Ardouin (Smauel Le Bihan)   We then see them Ardouin and Mesrine leaving a bank they robbed while Grainger waits with the car. Mesrine surprises Ardouin by crossing the street to rob a second bank, which he does without a mask, although Ardouin wears one.

Back at the police station he's told that the teller recognized him. The officer suggests that the teller could have recognized the others too, but Mesrine insists that his partners always wear masks. We're shown the scene where they easily apprehended Mesrine, before cutting back to the questioning. The officer is puzzled and asks "You admit to the robbery and attempted murder?"
Mesrine: Yes.
Officer: but not the stolen checks?
Mesrine: I don't mind being honest about what I did, but I won't confess to stuff I didn't do. That's logical.
The typist remarks that this means they'll have to transfer him to Compiegne court. The officer tells him he'll be going away for a good while, but Mesrine offers to bet him that he'll be out in three months.

We move forward to Mesrine in handcuffs fixed to a chain, being escorted to a courthouse. He tells his escorts that he's sick and needs the restroom, so they escort him. When he implies that they want to watch him on the toilet, in the small bathroom they let him close the door enough that they can't see him, although he's still chained so can't go far. He pretends noisily to be using the toilet, but manages to reach into the toilet tank and find a hidden pistol, which he tucks into his pants. In court he demands to have his handcuffs removed, but the judge isn't interested in his demands, scolding him. He promptly pulls the pistol and demands to be uncuffed. He pulls the judge out from behind the bench and uses him as a hostage to escape. He releases the judge and runs for the car Ardouin has waiting. Mesrine is shot in the arm by cops firing after them and the getaway gets messier when Ardouin hits a police van. They do manage to escape however and at his place, Mesrine is told his father is in the hospital. He and friend laugh while watching the news reports of his escape. Mesrine gets upset that the reporter misquotes him, but is just as quickly thrilled when the reporter announces that he has now been named "Public enemy number 1"

We next find Mesrine disguised as a doctor in the hospital his father is at. He walks right by the guard stationed outside his father's room, in case Mesrine thinks to show up. He wakes his father, who asks why he came. Mesrine says "The banks were closed, I figured I'd visit my father."
Father: You came...Have you seen your daughter?
Mesrine: No. Not yet. You know. I'm not much of a son.
Father; I'm not much of a father either.
Mesrine: It's how I am. What can I say Dad? I'm sorry.
Father: It must be my fault.
Mesrine: No.
Father: No matter what happens Jacky, you're still her father.
Mesrine; I know.
Father: And, you're still my son.
Mesrine: [sobbing] I'm sorry. Forgive me.
Father: You better go now.
We see his fahter's funeral next with the cops close by watching for Mesrine.

We skip to Paris, 1973 and find Mesrine in a goofy disguise on a park bench asking a man with a black eye how he got it. The man says he's a boxer. Mesrine remarks that Ardouin is a boxer too. He next asks the man if he can drive, and when he says he can, Mesrine mentions a job coming up in a few days. We flash right to the job and see the boxer in a car waiting outside a bank. The police are also approaching the bank with a description of the car. They see it and let dispatch know. The driver surrenders quickly and gets cuffed as Mesrine and Ardouin exit the bank. They're spotted quickly and the police start shooting. They fire back and escape, hijacking a random car while they're pursued. Ardouin hits a car and Mesrine fires at the cops to keep them back. He fires right next to Ardouin head and appears to damage his eardrums. They abandon the car and head to the subway. Ardouin's head still hurts and he yells at Mesrine that he knew the driver "couldn't cut it." adding "your bullshit almost got us killed."
Mesrine: Okay. Fine. You were right. I didn't listen. I'm sorry. Now, give me a break, okay?"
Ardouin is concerned that their driver will talk now that the police have him. Mesrine insists that he won't, telling Ardouin "A guy I choose never flips, understand?"
Ardouin: Fuck you. Since you're so smart you can work it out alone. Fuck off, Mesrine.
He gets off the subway leaving Mesrine alone with the passengers. He tells them all to leave the car so he can have it to himself.

We then find Mesrine in bed with the alarm buzzing with a girl next to him. We see Commissioner Broussard outside in a car in the rain. One of his men asks if they're waiting much longer as his men have been on the roof for eight hours,and it's raining. Broussard says "I noticed. I'll let you know." Mesrine is awakened by the police knocking on the door. The girl appears frightened. We see Broussard in the hallway and he tells Mesrine he's surrounded, a fact he confirms by looking out the window and seeing marksmen. He toys with Broussard trying a fake voice and then claiming he's with the Baader-Meinhof gang, saying "I'll blow the place sky high. Long live the revolution!" Broussard doesn't buy it, saying "Wonderful. Thank you very much. Quit it Jacques. You're overdoing it." Mesrine tells the girl to get dressed. He questions Broussard's identity asking if he's "the one who gets his picture in the papers." Broussard says yes and Mesrine says "First of all, Fuck you. Second, how do I know it's you?" He convinces Broussard to slide his id under the door. Broussard is concerned that he'll shoot when he's in front of the door with the id. Mesrine says "GO on. You have my word. You know who I am. I don't lie." He finally does it, and once Mesrine checks the id he asks for two favors. Broussard says "If they're reasonable." Mesrine says "First, the girl with me, leave her alone. She's not involved. Second, give me twenty minutes. I've got stuff to do." Broussard answers "ANything else? A car and a chauffeur?" Mesrine says "I'll get that anyway." Mesrine tells him it's that, or war, and Broussard agrees to give him twenty minutes. Mesrine gets busy burning his fake id's in the sink while trying to keep the girl calm. He assures her that she'll be fine. Broussard starts knocking again when the twenty minutes is up. Mesrine asks "Do you have the balls to come get me with no gun and no vest?"
Broussard: Why would i do that?
Mesrine: Just because. To see if you can. I would anyway. Broussard? Are you sure you box in my weight class?
Broussard agrees to do it, and rmoves his gun and vest standing in front of the door. He asks Mesrine "Do you have the balls to come out unarmed?"
Mesrine has the girl open the door, and Broussard sees Mesrine dressed up smiling with a cigar in his mouth, opening a bottle of champagne for him. Photographers come in after Mesrine is cuffed and Mesrine smiles for them mentioning Broussard's "moment of glory." He says to Broussard "You didn't ask me why I didn't smoke you or your boys just now."
Broussard: Cops don't think. They act.
Mesrine: Because there was a lady. That's the only reason. Because there was a lady. Next time, there'll be no lady. And no champagne, Broussard. Just you and me. So...until we meet again. [he clinks Broussard's glass with his own.]

We next see Mesrine in prison in Paris, later in 1973. In his cell he has fairly normal clothes and reads a newspaper getting upset. He pounds his door for a guard, and when one responds he asks him, "Who is this guy, Pinochet?" The guard says he's a Chilean general. Mesrine says "A Chilean general? Some loser named Pinochet gets the front page. There's not one line about me." The guard says "It's a coup d'etat." Mesrine angrily says "A coup d'etat? Find me a typewriter. I'm going to write it." Mesrine is soon typing away. We see him talking with his attorney who asks him "What is this?" holding up his book. "L'Instinct De Mart" He says "That's my book." She' concerned that admitting to over forty murders and describing where they happened will have the police studying the book to find evidence. Mesrine laughs and says "If they're going to dig, they better dig here. [pointing at his head]
Attorney: Why, it's not true?
Mesrine: People like pace, action.
Attorney: And?
Mesrine: And no jury will think I'm stupid enough to confess to stuff that will get me the guillotine. You know on the street, I'm a star.
Attorney: You amuse people but you scare them too.If they can assuage that fear by locking you up, they will.
She tells him he has a visitor and Mesrine is escorted to a visiting room to see his daughter, who is much older of course, than when he last saw her. She looks very happy to see him and he smiles as well, although they both seem hesitant to start talking. She finally tells him "I grew up!"  He says "I can see that!" The both of them can't stop smiling. He asks about her brothers and she says they're fine, although "they screw around a lot." He laughs and says 'How strange!" He tells her to be careful of punks with motorbikes and she asks when he'll be back. He says it'll be a while and tells her "I'm sorry, doll. This is no way to see each other."
She says "It's better. If I want to see you, I know where to find you. I miss you" Mesrine puts his hand up to the glass and she returns the gesture.

We then find Mesrine in court for trial, asked by the DA if he knows Ardouine, who is present. He claims he's never seen him before. He moves on and asks about the judge he held hostage. Mesrine makes a joke of it and says "like any good citizen, I was only looking for judicial protection." which gets the courtroom laughing. He's then asked if he plans to escape again. He answers "when you live in hell, escaping is a right. I'd even say it's a duty, and even a business. I never talk without compensation." He then produces a key to his handcuffs, informing the room that he purchased it from a guard. He points out that they work to guard the same system which allowed him to buy a key. The judge asks him why he has so many guns and he jokes that he saves the police department work by taking care of his own enemies. The judge is tired of seeing him work the crowd and speaks up, saying "He has forged the image of a nice man. An outlaw, of course, but one who wouldn't harm a fly, who even treats his victims kindly. What a joke! It is nothing more than a pretense to conceal his terrible ruthlessness. There are no honest gangsters. There are only gangsters. And you are a gangster, Mesrine. You fire without hesitation. When things go wrong, you go all the way. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you must uphold the law and impose punishment. There is no society, if there is no punishment. Mesrine stands and says 'So, I'm public enemy number 1? I'm the enemy of one public entity, the banks. Of course I rob them. So, hey, they don't like me. But, when I rob a bank, I don't feel like I'm breaking the law. I'm just stealing from a bigger thief than myself. So you want to toss me away in a hole, don't you? Throw away the key and forget me? Go ahead, toss me in that hole. But, I'll escape."

We see him back in prison, having been sentenced to twenty years in maximum security. He adjusts well, saying hello to the guards who are happy to light cigars for him. Mesrine stops to talk with a fellow inmate who is doing push ups, asking if he's exercising because he has plans. He introduces himself but the man doesn't seem impressed saying "So, what are you doing in my yard?" Mesrine brags that in prison he gets whatever he wants, and he says "I can see that." Mesrine says he's escaped three times already and the other man says "So have I." Mesrine adds "but maybe I'd like to do it again..." The man then offers his hand and says "The name is Francois Besse (Mathieu Amalric)"

Mesrine arranges a visit from his lawyer, getting him outside the main prison. He claims he wants to discuss a case which she doesn't have the file for, and Mesrine says that Francois has it, sending a guard to retrieve it. Francois is in his cell pulling a small mace canister from the bottom of a foil lined bag of crackers and moving it to his sock. Mesrine's attorney smiles at him and she slides him her briefcase which contains guns. She tells him she'll be disbarred if anyone finds out. He tells her "Don't worry. You're saving my life. I won't mess up yours." THe guard asks Francois for the file and he attemps to hand it through the bars but it's too thick to fit through. The guard opens the door and Francois "accidentally" drops the contents of the file, which gives him the chance to reach into his sock.  He sprays both guards in the eyes catching them completely by surprise and then pushing them into his cell and locking them in. Two other guards see him outside his cell, but before they can apprehend him, Mesrine is behind them with his guns. They take the guards' uniforms and lock them up. They start leaving and run into another guard, taking him along at gunpoint and grabbing an extension ladder which was being used for work on the prison. They climb the wall with the ladder and use a grappling hook with rope to descend the other side. Francois and Mesrine get down safely, confiscating someone's car, although a third prisoner coming with them breaks his leg dropping down and isn't able to get to the car before the police show up. The third prisoner fires a few shots before he's gunned down and Mesrine and Francois escape.

Mesrine and Francois find a place to live. Mesrine surprises Francois by showing up with a couple of girls.Mesrine calls Francois "Jean-Luc" and Mesrine himself goes by "Bruno" Francois asks to speak to Mesrine away from the girls. He isn't happy about the girls and asks "What are those bimbos doing here?" Mesrine justifies it by saying "I've been jerking off to lingerie ads for five years now." The girls are watching the television, which is covering Mesrine's escape and shows a good picture of him, which clearly affects them. Francois gets angry and grabs a gun, turning off the TV and storming out murmuring that they'll have to move again. Mesrine sits on the couch with both of them and tells them not to believe the press. They settle down, impressed by his notoriety.

Mesrine disguises himself with a short haircut and glasses and he and Francois visit a police department posing as detectives from Paris. He asks the station Chief about how many men he has on duty at a ten. Mesrine asks if he's heard of any activity from "Those two maniacs, Besse and Mesrine." pointing to a poster of them on the wall. The chief asks "Do you think they'd dare try something around here?"  Mesrine takes the opportunity to rib Francois saying "You never know with those two. Anyway, watch the little guy. He's the worst." Francois urges Mesrine to get going although he's clearly enjoying himself. Outside Francois isn't happy that there are more active cops then they thought. Mesrine, however reasons "even with an army, they're just chickenshit cops."

They next visit a casino, and tell the manager they need to check his vault for counterfeit bills. The manager asks for a warrant, which causes Francois to show his police ID. The manager insists that it isn't a warrant. Francois seems flustered and looks to Mesrine, who says he has a warrant and pulls out his gun directing the manager to bring them to the vault. The alarm is pulled before they leave the property and the cops get there quickly forcing a shoot out. Francois is wounded before they can escape, but eventually they grab a car and speed off. A huge police search party is organized and the car dies on them shortly. They find a house with a family in it and force themselves in, keeping the family at their own dinner table. Mesrine is pleased when their heist is covered on the radio. When no one at the table will say anything, Mesrine gets the two young kids to laugh.He suggests that they all vote on whether or not they go for a ride to the country and everyone votes to go, realizing that it wasn't really a vote.Mesrine tells the father to take them out of town and Mesrine and Francois get in the trunk hoping to get past a police road block. We see that they can see into the car from the trunk via a hole behind the back seat armrest. The police question them, but don't bother checking the trunk.The father lets them out of the trunk and Mesrine gives him some money for his assistance.

The national guard is soon out in full force looking for them anyway as they try to escape through some woods. Attempting to wade through a river, Mesrine tries to toss one of their bags of money across to the other side, despite Francois warning that it's too far. It gets swept down river and Francois insists that was his share. Immediately afterwards they see a rowboat and find they don't have to cross.

Next we see Mesrine in the city, in another disguise when a girl walking by catches his attention and he follows her into a bar. After they say hello, she asks "So, what will you buy me?" He takes off his hat and it appears that he's shaved the top of his head to appear balding. He orders her the best champagne. She tells him her name is Sylvia (Ludivine Sagnier) and before long they're in bed, where she tells him her horoscope told her she would fall in love.

We skip to 1978 and Mesrine meets with a reporter named Isabelle.(Laure Marsac) for an interview. She asks "Why do you do what you do?" He answers "I don't like laws, and I won't be a slave to my alarm clock." I don't want to pass every store thinking "That'll cost me ten months work." No." She asks him if he's politically right or left wing and he tells her that he isn't either and it's all corrupt.He admits after deliberating that he is "maybe" a dangerous man. She asks "How do you think you'll age and die?" and he says "Frankly, I don't think I'll live to be very old. They'll end up shooting me. I'll die. It's normal. It makes sense. And anyway, you know, a man who's been in an MSA, a Maximum Security Area, has every right. So I have every right." She asks him about his plans and he has a long list including, closing the MSA's and freeing all the prisoners. He claims he's a nitroglcerin specialist, and that he'll rub out judges if he has to and tells her that he might go somewhere to train with Palestinians, saying "We'll blow everything." He then offers her a cup of coffee.

Sylvie walks through a park and stops at a newsstand to pick up magazines. She arrives home where Mesrine and Francois are waiting and she tells Mesrine he's in "Paris, Match." Francois looks through the article and reads the part about training with Palestinians and his other wild claims. He asks what is this bullshit?" Mesrine says "It's not bullshit. It's a revolution." Francois responds "We're crooks, not wild eyed idealists. We don't try to break the system." Mesrine tells him "That's typical of a small fry." Francois insists that they talk about it, but Mesrine insists they talk over dinner. He tells Francois that their next job is to kidnap a billionaire and he's picked one out already who's a slumlord. He then says that afterwards, they'll get bazookas and attack the MSA's. Francois says "Listen Jacques, Attack the MSA's, why not? But then what are you going to get me into? The truth is, you'll never stop. You want to tear the system down, but I want it to stand so I can milk it. You're a spinning top. The worst part is you don't realize it." Mesrine says "I don't know about tops."

We next jump to 1979, and find Mesrine and a new partner posing as police detectives to visit a Mr. Lefevre's house. Lefevre's son answers the door, but seems skeptical, yet gets his father.When they tell him he needs to go to the station with them to talk about his properties, he quickly obliges, leaving with them. We see Lefevre next with a hood pulled away from his face with Mesrine telling him he's in custody of the Palestine Liberation Front. Lefevre doesn't know how that affects him, as he's not Jewish. Mesrine says "Not a problem. You'll shell it out for me, Jacques Mesrine." He takes the news calmly and asks if they'll be keeping him long. Lefevre asks how much he wants and Mesrine says 10 million. Lefevre says it's too much since he's old and doesn't have a lot of time left.Mesrine then adjusts his demand and tells him 8 million, he again says it's too high. He won't agree to seven either but finally says OK to 6 million, paid in four installments. Mesrine demands that he pay in three installments and they agree.

Later in conversation, Lefevre suggests that they're a lot alike saying "We like fine things. And, if to get them, we must extort money from an honest worker, why not?" Mesrine protests "That's bullshit. We're totally different. You're an exploiter, I'm a revolutionary. That's not the same." Lefevre asks "Mr. Mesrine, do you know how to tell between a revolutionary and a gangster?"
Mesrine: What is this? A riddle?
Lefevre: A revolutionary would have put a bullet in my head and left my corpse in the trunk of a car without ever asking for a cent. On the other hand, a gangster asks for ransom, picks up his money, and releases me. That's what you'll do."
Mesrine: You forgot the third possibility. I get the money, put a bullet in your head, and toss you in the trunk. There. You hadn't thought of that.
Lefevre: In that case, all the stuff in the papers, "Mesrine, the honest bandit whose word is his bond." that's all bullshit then."
They hear on the TV, that Francois was captured by police in in Belgium tipped off to him by the French anti gang squad. Mesrine says "I know him. He won't be in long."

Mesrine and his partner are crouched in the woods with binoculars watching Lefevre's son who was due to bring part of the ransom. They make him sit there a long time, and see a car pull up next to him. and figure that they're the cops. Mesrine starts talking shots at the cops' windshield and soon many other unmarked cop cars show up, sending Mesrine and his ppartner off down a trail on dirtbikes. He puts a gun in Lefevre's face, and tells him what happened. He swears it won't happen again. Soon Mesrine comes back to the house, happy that Lefevre's son, made the first payment, and that the newspaper reported that Francois escaped, calling it "A Mesrine style escape."

Mesrine brings Sylvia out to buy things, including a car, jewelry, and clothes, spending some time in an upscale hotel. He sees a news report that says he'll certainly be recaptured as he feels the need to justify his status as public enemy number one.

We skip forward to Paris, 1979. and find Mesrine parked in a car, disguised with a beard and mustache, a hat and dark glasses. He watches people walk by and calls out "Charlie" when he sees a man walking by. The two of them go to Mesrine's place for drinks and Mesrine remarks, "Charlie Bauer (Gerard Lanvin,) the invisible man, you're a hard man to see." Charlie says "I have an organization and comrades to answer to."
Mesrine: Yeah right, I forgot. Your far left comrades, who tell you how to drink, eat, who you can see? Is that it?
Charlie: Do you think that you alone can fuck the system?
Mesrine: I don't think I am. I know I'm doing it. Have you seen the papers? Have you read my book?
Charlie: Part of it. I didn't like what I read. Because it's got nothing to do with who I am and what I stand for. I'll even tell you that if we'd met in Algeria, it wouldn't have been side by side, but face to face, gun in hand.
Mesrine: I know that. I'd have killed you.
Charlie: Well, you better not have missed because we have nothing to prove.
Sylvie walks in and Charlie leaves. Mesrine gets angry with her for "shaking your ass all over the house." When she doesn't respond to his comment he says "Why do I bother, you're just a slut." The two of them argue, and he slaps her. She makes a remark about his "friend" and he says that Charlie was in the MSA with him, which is all she needs to know. Sylvie says "Francois was your friend. But you want the last word, so you always wind up alone.And that's how you'll end up Mesrine. Alone." He then asks if she's planning to leave him, but she says she wants them to leave Paris, and when he agrees, she doesn't believe him. She says "You'll get yourself killed Mesrine." but he insists that he won't, even promising her.

Soon Charlie comes to visit, bringing his wife and baby along. Charlie and Mesrine complain about the MSA conditions while the women just listen. Charlie says they need to free all the prisoners and make an army with them, while Mesrine insists that the way to revolution is to "hit them in the wallet." Charlie points out that the banks are still around. Mesrine starts talking about escaping prison four times, and tells CHarlie that it won't happen again, as this time they'll have to shoot him down. This upsets Sylvie who leaves the room. That night he reassures Sylvie that nothing bad will happen as long as they're together and she tells him she loves him, but they're interrupted by Charlie knocking at the door.

Mesrine asks Charlie if he knows a reporter named Dallier. And then shows CHarlie an article Dallier wrote that begins "Mesrine, the dishonorable bandit who betrays his friends and doesn't keep his word."  Mesrine is enraged and starts breaking things. Charlie asks Mesrine what he plans to do. We then see Dallier (Alain Fromager) on the street. with Mesrine and Charlie nearby acting inconspicously. Charlie tells Dallier to follow him and Mesrine tails them from a ways back, catching up with them at Charlie's car. He forces Dallier inside at gunpoint and drives him off. Mesrine asks him about the paper he works for and Dallier says he's quitting because they're too extreme. Dallier tells them how unhappy he is with France over the past few decades. Mesrine asks him what he thinks about the cops and he says they're a bunch of screw ups but to look out for Broussard as he's working on his daughter. He asks if he knows the cops plans for him and Dallier says "To kill you. No question about it." They continue driving to a dirt road in the woods, stopping at a cave, which they lead Dallier into after Mesrine prepares a space with candles. Dallier asks if they can start the interview and starts asking questions, which Mesrine doesn't bother answering. Finally he tells him to drop the microphone and strip. They then handcuff him and Mesrine says "It's Mesrine who's going to interview Dallier." just before he starts beating him, in between asking him questions like what his name is, where he works, and finally about the article he wrote. He beats him savagely so much so that Charlie is disgusted and has to tell him to stop before he kills him telling Mesrine "We're not fascists. He is. Blow him away. It's over. We're done." Mesrine shoots him several times and they leave him there.

Back at Mesrine's place, Charlie has a newspaper and tells Mesrine that Dallier is still alive. Mesrine says "So hat? Even better." Charlie counters that it's a catastrophe, and sending pictures of the bloodied Dallier has shocked even the sympathetic press. He explains "Dallier has a press ID, you attacked one of theirs."

Mesrine makes a recording for Sylvie to listen to in the event of his death.He records, "When a man has chosen to live by the sword, by theft, by violence, he doesn't often die in his bed. After all, whether it was me or the police who fired is not the point. My death is no more senseless than dying in a car crash or working in a steel factory for the man. So, you know, death, in the end, doesn't exist. Death is nothing to someone who knew how to live. At least I can say that I didn't waste my life. As a criminal, you can't succeed in life, but as for the heart, I had you, my love. As for being a criminal, I made a choice, you know. I chose to live comfortably, thanks to crime, always targeting. Well, almost always, I think, the well to do, the rich. Anyway, once I'm dead, I'm guilty of nothing, I've paid my dues. The odd thing is, some will see me as an example, a hero. But in reality, there are no heroes in crime. Only men who have chosen to live outside the law. I died with gun in hand, even if, and I don't know, I never had time to use it."

We move to November 2, 1979 and see Broussard and his men on the street. We see the same scene from the first film, Sylvie disguised and leaving the building with her dog, but this time we see that the cops are already watching her.There's even a cop hidden in the back of a truck she passes by, reporting where she's headed. As she goes out to the street, others are watching for her. They see Mesrine leave as well. Sylvie has no idea and signals that it's safe to come out. There are cops all along the street hidden, watching them. The cops in the truck with the tarp on it gets nervous when it appears Mesrine is approaching, and shuts off his walkie talkie.  They have guns pointed at him from inside just in case he pulls the tarp. They lose Mesrine when he goes to get the car, but pick him up again when he drives out, reporting that he's with the girl in the car.Mesrine backs up down the street and stops. Sylvie enters a building and Mesrine gets out of the car to wait, walking within reach of some hidden cops, making them very nervous. Broussard tells them to stay calm. Mesrine sees Sylvie exit the building and they both return to the car. The hidden cops report that the Sylvie put a package in the trunk and are headed toward the next set of cops. In the car Mesrine informs Sylvie that he has to meet Charlie somewhere alone about "The Red Brigade" Sylvie doesn't like that she can't go as well. The cops note that he's about to get to a red light. Broussard orders them "Set it up for Cligancourt. Don't let him on the expressway." Broussard and the ambush truck both head to Mesrine's location. The hiding cops all leave their hiding spots and rush that way as well. Mesrine and Sylvie make up, both smiling and the light turns green. Broussard gets caught in traffic and abandons his car, running there instead. The ambush truck driver waves, asking Mesrine to let him in front, to which Mesrine agrees.It then stops directly in front of them, while Broussard is still running to get there.The dog Sylvie has in her lap starts barking and Mesrine watches the tarp over the back of the truck get swept aside, exposing the cops with guns. Before he has a chance to move, they fire on him as Sylvie screams beside him. Another cop runs up from the street opens the driver's side door, and shoots the already very dead Mesrine in the head. ANother cop reaches them and pulls his guns on them demanding that the shrieking Sylvie get out of the car. ANother cop gets in Mesrine's side and rearranges Mesrine's weapons. Broussard finally reaches the car and instructs them to get Sylvie's dog to a vet.  He says "It's over." and we see Mesrine's face bloodied and slumped over motionless, with his eyes still open.

What About It?

Mesrine Part 2: Public Enemy #1, is a film about Mesrine, after he's become the notorious outlaw. Any struggle he had to balance a normal life with his outlandish lifestyle is gone. He has embraced his public persona entirely and even gets a great deal of pleasure from it. Mesrine was known as the "Man of 1,000 Faces" and we see that here, as he frequently changes his appearance, in varying degrees. The best element of his illusion however, is his confidence. Barely disguised at all he walks into a police station, demanding sensitive information from the Chief, which he gets without much difficulty even though his face is on a wanted picture right on the wall.

He enjoys being a celebrity as much as being a criminal and he plays the press to make him look good. The press rewards his interest by doing just that. Everyone believes in his celebrity, including the guards at the prison, who give him light his cigars and treat him as priveleged. He is no longer intimidated by the police and treats his questioning like a game. He enjoys playing too, as we see during his courthouse escape. After manipulating the system to get in the right courthouse, he manages to have a gun planted and grabbing a judge, for maximum impact, stages an escape certain to be well covered by the press.He still values his reputation as the "honest bandit." although the honesty is applied conveniently, especially when it concerns talking to cops. He has no problem lying about knowing his criminal associates.

Embracing his criminal celebrity, however, does not erase his ties, and the movie does focus on him coming to terms with the obligations he turned away from. He understands that he has made a choice, but nonetheless, can't deny certain obligations, visiting his father in a heavily guarded hospital, despite the expectation that he would do so. His scene with his father is telling, he apologizes for "not being much of a son" and for "how he is." assuring his father that it isn't his fault. He never makes any suggestion about changing, however, as if "who he is." is an irrevocable state of being. He has no plans to change, but is not without emotion. His regret comes across as quite genuine, his dying father being his only witness. His meeting with his daughter has similar qualities. He makes no promises to her or even suggestions that things will change. Nonetheless, it's clear he's happy to see her. It's also interesting that she seems to somewhat understand that he isn't going to change, but is just as thrilled to see him.

Mesrine is ruthless at times, but also very charismatic and charming when he chooses to be. A skilled manipulator, he's able to convince his lawyer to smuggle him guns into prison, despite the risk to her career.
He has no trouble entertaining a full courtroom, easily gaining sympathy despite serious criminal charges. People want to believe his persona, and people like to be around him. The relationships that most show his charm are those with his criminal partners, who tolerate his press obsession and his egocentric quirks without complaint until faced with something drastic. Ardouin is the closest to Mesrine, egocentric and flashy, enjoying the adrenaline and the lifestyle. He only splits after having a pistol fired right next to his ear,  a car accident, and a chase with bullets flying past. Even then, it's Mesrine's arrogance that forces the issue, we sense that if Mesrine would just stop bragging, Ardouin would have stuck around.

His partnership with Francois is interesting in that Francois seems absolutely unimpressed by anything including Mesrine. He's Mesrine's opposite, small to Mesrine's big, sullen to his cheerful. Francois is far more professional than Mesrine, preferring no media attention, content with the money gained from their jobs. He doesn't even care about spending the money or enjoying himself, having no use for the women Mesrine brings to their place, as in his mind, the risk they present outweighs the benefits. Mesrine's behavior stands out in the contrast and his claim that Mesrine is a "spinning top." rings all the more true, because Francois' focus highlights Mesrine's aimlessness. Their split also shows that Mesrine, on some level, truly believes himself a revolutionary, whether or not he is one. His claims in an interview that he'll train with Palestinians, and although seemingly just hyperbole, it does speak of his desire to be seen seriously in that light. Yet, his independence is more important than any revolutionary desire. His inability to come up with any real plan or even identify his problem with the system, makes his revolutionary claims appear to be a brick in his PR campaign and possibly a self justification of his lifestyle.

As presented here, it's the challenging of his persona that proves his undoing. He's first challenged at his trial when the judge interrupts his song and dance to say "He has forged the image of a nice man. An outlaw, of course, but one who wouldn't harm a fly, who even treats his victims kindly. What a joke! It is nothing more than a pretense to conceal his terrible ruthlessness. There are no honest gangsters. There are only gangsters. And you are a gangster, Mesrine. You fire without hesitation. When things go wrong, you go all the way. Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you must uphold the law and impose punishment. There is no society, if there is no punishment." The sentiment clearly makes sense to the jury as, they all vote to convict him, although his lawyer was probably right as well, in that they fear him as well as find him amusing. Mesrine treats this rebuttal as business as usual, but has a harder time countering his hostage, Lefevre's criticism. Lefevre, the slumlord, sees that they have much in common, and doesn't believe the "revolutionary" claim for a moment. Their exchange casts extreme doubt on Mesrine's position.
Lefevre: A revolutionary would have put a bullet in my head and left my corpse in the trunk of a car without ever asking for a cent. On the other hand, a gangster asks for ransom, picks up his money, and releases me. That's what you'll do."

Mesrine: You forgot the third possibility. I get the money, put a bullet in your head, and toss you in the trunk. There. You hadn't thought of that.
Lefevre: In that case, all the stuff in the papers, "Mesrine, the honest bandit whose word is his bond." that's all bullshit then."
And so Mesrine, the "celebrity" has overtaken Mesrine "the revolutionary." In typical fashion Mesrine has no answer for this, but he does as Lefevre claims he will which itself is an answer. Mesrine has no deep attachment to any position other than wanting to be celebrated in the press. He remains an opportunist, adapting to circumstances without much conviction behind his actions.

His final parership with Charlie shows a Mesrine poking at the edges of a revolutionary position. Charlie has the conviction that Mesrine doesn't and while Mesrine chides Charlie for his accounting to an organization, his conversation with Sylvie on their final car ride reveals that Charlie's position may well be winning Mesrine over. All it takes however, is one reporter to resist Mesrine's media manipulations to foil these plans. The assault on the reporter Dallier is a pivotal moment, revealing just how important his press is to him. His treatment of Dallier is enough to prompt Charlie to compare Mesrine to the fascists he despises. His hold on the press is broken by his impulsive assault. Thinking Dallier dead, he sends graphic photos to the papers, which make it difficult for them to support the "honest bandit" any longer, as he certainly appears more the "ruthless gangster" that the judge warned about.

The police prove just as ruthless in the end. Tired of Mesrine making them look foolish, here, they unquestionably stage an execution. Their fear of the man is obvious during their tailing of him, as we see the police nearly panic when Mesrine unknowingly lingers near their hiding positions. Broussard's knowledge of the operation is left unclear, as he arrives at the scene too late, and many of the officers appear to be acting outside the box. He certainly authorized lethal force, but whether he sanctioned murder is another question. Of course it's his job to present it as justified and he seems happy that whatever happened, it's over. The execution is expected by Mesrine, a natural outcome of his lifestyle. As he says in his recording to Sylvie "When a man has chosen to live by the sword, by theft, by violence, he doesn't often die in his bed. After all, whether it was me or the police who fired is not the point. My death is no more senseless than dying in a car crash or working in a steel factory for the man." What happened was inevitable.
Richet, has succeded in making an engrossing, and exciting gangster film. It's a great looking piece full of flawless performances. Cassel once again, steps into the gangster's skin and paints a convincing portrait of a scattered and ruthless man. Mathieu Amalric is perfect as Francois, the pessismistic practical partner who works so well as Mesrine's foil. His lack of expression is an expression itself. Olivier Gourmet's Broussard is terrific, particularly in the hotel apprehension scene, despite his work boundaries, he is nonetheless fascinated by Mesrine and despite his charge, easily drawn into his games. Gerard Lanvin's Charlie is perfect as the sincere revolutionary, who isn't above helping with a job. Ludivine Sagnier's Sylvie is captivating as a woman unlike the others, who sees who he is, and embraces him, although she still rightly fears where his actions will lead.

We see this Mesrine as a believable man, still the confused opportunist he always was, only now more focused by embracing his lifestyle completely. Ultimately, Mesrine himself isn't sure of his own goals, content to lash out at the nebulous forces, which he resents but can never really identify. His overriding motivation is his desire to be known and celebrated, in ways that conventional channels would never provide. He confirms the criticisms of the judge and of Lefevre and while he may have hoped to be a revolutionary, he doesn't get there. held in place by his own narcissism. Despite all his flaws however, Mesrine is entertaining, and does have some good qualites like a sense of style and loyalty to his associates. He doesn't appear to enjoy murder for it's own sake but as the judge said  "When things go wrong, you go all the way." In the end Mesrine chooses the form of tragedy his own life will take, perhaps justified in his own mind that he felt he really lived while he was around. He does accept some responsibility in his final address to Sylvie:
"Death is nothing to someone who knew how to live. At least I can say that I didn't waste my life. As a criminal, you can't succeed in life, but as for the heart, I had you, my love. As for being a criminal, I made a choice, you know. I chose to live comfortably, thanks to crime, always targeting. Well, almost always, I think, the well to do, the rich. Anyway, once I'm dead, I'm guilty of nothing, I've paid my dues. The odd thing is, some will see me as an example, a hero. But in reality, there are no heroes in crime. Only men who have chosen to live outside the law. I died with gun in hand, even if, and I don't know, I never had time to use it."

We're left with a picture of a man who really was like a spinning top and as Francois pointed out, the real tragedy is that he doesn't even know it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mesrine: Part 1, Killer Instinct

What Happens?

The film opens using a changing split screen effect to show us Sylvie (Ludivine Sagnier) walking onto a Paris street with a little dog. She cautiously looks around and gives a bearded Jacques Mesrine (Vincent Cassel.) a signal that it's safe to come out, which he does, cautiously looking around in every direction. He follows her to a garage and gets a car, driving them off, but nearly hitting a car which speeds past as he's pulling onto the road. He then drives down the street in reverse and stops for Sylvie to retrieve something which looks like carpet from a building, and drives off again.

A large truck almost cuts him off in traffic and waves to be let in front of him. Sylvie suggests he let the truck pass which he does, only to have it stop in front of him. A tarp opens up from over the back of the truck and we see Sylvie scream realizing many men with heavy guns are aiming at her and Mesrine.
We then move back in time to Algeria, 1959. The French army is questioning Algerian prisoners about the location of a bomb. The prisoners aren't cooperative, and the soldiers, including Mesrine beat them, finally resorting to bringing one of their wives into the interrogation room. She tells her husband not to talk. Mesrine is handed a pistol and instructed to kill the girl. He puts the gun to her head but then against orders, decides to kill their captive instead. We see him later, leaving the army, and waiting for his father, Pierre (Michel Duchausov,) to pick him up in a diner. We hear a newscast in the background about the French and Algerians working together. They hug and he brings Jacques home for dinner. Jacques' mother informs him that his father got him a job, but before they talk much, a car horn interrupts. Mesrine's old friend Paul (Gilles Lellouche,) has come to pick him up in a nice convertible, from which Mesrine concludes he's doing pretty well. Paul remarks that he does "odd jobs." They go to a nightclub, where Paul has arranged Mesrine a prostitute named Sarah (Florence Thomassin)  They quickly end up in bed and during sex, Mesrine asks "So it's like that, you won't cum for free?" She tells him "only if she's paid to." He tells her she should pay him and she replies "You're a good lover, but you can't dodge the bill."  He asks "Wanna bet?"

We next see Mesrine meeting Paul for a card game. He puts down his whole salary, and at the end of the night asks his friend if he can borrow cab fare. He offers Mesrine a wad of cash, but Mesrine returns it taking only enough for the cab. He asks Paul if the people that give him odd jobs "under the table" are hiring. Paul laughs and says they are. We see Mesrine and Paul another day, breaking into a house to find a safe. Mesrine finds it full of gold and cash. He shows Paul all the money, and he's initially excited but soon says "something's not right." We see the home owners coming into the room to confront them. Rather than flee, Mesrine claims that he and Paul are police and that they've just been robbed. He instructs the owner to find his unregistered firearms and bring them to the police station. They agree and Mesrine and Paul leave. Mesrine tells Paul that was easy and asks for more. Paul offers to introduce him to his connection, Guido.

We see Paul introducing Mesrine to Guido (Gerard Depardieu) Guido welcomes Mesrine but then asks Paul why he brings him "every stray dog you find in the street"
Mesrine: You mean me?
Paul: Not you.
Guido: I asked you a question Paul.
Mesrine: And I'm talking to you. Will you answer me?
Guido: Yeah, what?
Mesrine: Are you calling me a stray dog?
Guido: What are you barking about?
Mesrine: You better have an army behind you if that's how you're going to talk to me.
Guido: He bites. My army is well known.It's the SAO. The Secret Army Organization. We hit where and when we want.
Mesrine: All I see is a fat man talking.
Guido: You're parents never taught you respect? Then I will, kid.
Mesrine: You'll need more than sweat in your palms for that.
Guido: Is this what you're looking for [points a gun at Mesrine] That's what happens when you let just anyone fuck with you. Where's my respect?
Mesrine: All right. Keep cool.
Guido [putting the gun down] Relax. I'm not that crazy. You seem like an intelligent kid. Let me give you some advice, friend to friend. In our business, there's nothing to win. After a whole career, if you do well, you'll have this [motioning to the room around them] And you'll be lucky. Understand Mesrine?
Mesrine: Thanks for the advice. I won't forget it. Meanwhile, if this is really friend to friend, call me Jacques.
Guido: As you wish Jacques, here [hands Mesrine the gun]

We see Jacques with Sarah again. in a hotel. She lies naked on the bed while Mesrine is in the bathroom getting ready to go. She tells Mesrine that he should pay off her "man" and she could be his. He gets insulted that she would imply he'd want to be a pimp. He warns her to watch how she talks to him. Mesrine goes home and finds his mother irate that he hasn't been to work for a week. She tells him "A real man makes an honest living.He starts a family. He's respected by his neighbors." Mesrine just closes the door to his room and starts taking some things to go. His mother tells his father to talk to him and he waits outside the room.
Pierre: Your mother and I don't want you to go. This is your home.
Mesrine: Your mother and I? Can't you once, just say I?
Pierre: What's eating you, Jacky?
Mesrine: What's eating Jacky is that he can no longer stand seeing his Dad act like a doormat. And hey, I can't stomach it. I can't stomach working for the Germans. And I wish just once I could be proud of my father.Do you get that? Just once in my life?
Pierre: I never worked for the Germans. It was the Obligatory Work Program.
Mesrine: Obligatory? There's no such thing, Dad. It doesn't exist. Was it obligatory when I enlisted for Algeria? Tell me. What's with this fucking family? Do balls skip a generation, or what?

We flash to Spain, 1960. Paul and Mesrine check out a night club and the both of them try to pick up girls despite not speaking the language. Mesrine is taken with a brunette, Sofia (Elena Anaya) who won't dance with him so he dances with her friend to get her attention and she soon joins him. She turns him down again however, when he asks her to go to a private room. Like the dancing, she changes her mind later. She tells him that it's her first time. The next morning he's hesitant to leave when Paul urges him to get going.

They drive to another bar and Mesrine asks why Sarah is in the ghetto. Paul tells him her pimp just got out of jail. Paul is surprised that Mesrine brought a gun, but he asks Paul why he didn't. Inside the bar, they ask for Sarah, and are told she won't be long. A man at another table, Sarah's pimp Ahmed, overhears, and tells them that Sarah's unavailable, sending an elderly woman over to them instead. She asks Mesrine to buy her a drink, but he tells her to shove off. She persists and he pushes her to the ground. Ahmed gets up, telling Mesrine "that's no way to behave" while Mesrine has his back to him, hiding the fact that he's pulling his gun. Rather than shoot Ahmed, he hits him in the face with the butt of the gun, sending him to the floor before challenging everyone else at the pimp's table to make a move. Sarah comes running out of the back room and checks on her pimp, angry with Mesrine for hurting him. Mesrine asks "Whoring for an Arab dog?" and she answers "So? He's my man." Mesrine kicks the pimp one more time, and Sarah tells him to leave. The pimp meanwhile tells Sarah she disgusts him, and won't let her help him.

We find Mesrine and Sarah in a room later. Mesrine comforts her and we see that the pimp has messed up her face. We see Mesrine sitting outside the bar in his car watching Ahmed and his associates, as well as Guido. Guido and Ahmed get in the back. Without turning around, Mesrine asks about his nose being swollen. Ahmed asks if Sarah's ok, and assures Mesrine that he worked it out with Guido so that Messrine will "get a deal on the girl." adding "After all, it's true. I did sort of break her." Mesrine compliments Ahmed's suit. And he makes a remark that he's "like a good Frenchman." Mesrine laughs and says "You know what they say to an Arab with a suit like yours? When he and Guido don't know, Mesrine tells them "Defendant, please rise!"  Everyone laughs and Guido asks "Do you know what an Arab in a trash can is?" THe pimp daesn't know so Guido answers "A waste. You can fit three in there." Mesrine and Guido laugh but Ahmed doesn't. Mesrine assures him that they're only joking.

When they stop the car, Mesrine hits Ahmed. then binds and ties him while Guido watches, remarking "It's easier with women, huh?" Mesrine pulls a knife and tells the pimp "Men get one to the head, but a bitch like you dies like a bitch. How much did you want for her? How much?" He then stabs him and throws him into an already dug hole, which they fill in.

We next see that Mesrine has reconnected with Sophia. They dance before it shifts to a poker game where Paul announces that Mesrine got married. Mesrine tells the room "She's knocked up. What could I do?" Messrine is distracted by an unknown patron yelling at the bartender. He gets up to check it out and the man asks "Who are you? The owner? The fat whore's son?" Mesrine tells the bartender to serve them so they don't get angry. The man smirks while she pours them drinks. Mesrine then breaks a bottle in on of their faces and starts shooting one of the men in the kneecaps, breaking a glass on the other one's head when he tries to get up. Guido takes some money out of one of their pockets as they moan in pain on the floor, telling them it's for the drinks and the respect.

We skip to Mesrine in the hospital months later, waiting for his baby to be born. Guido waits with him, and tells him he may change now that he has a baby. Mesrine tells him "Times change, not men, and me, least of all." Guido asks him if he remembers "the cripple" referring to the guy in the bar he shot in the knees in the last scene. Guido tells him that the cripple sent two friends over to ask about Mesrine.Guido confirms that these were "serious friends." but reassures him that they can't touch him without his permission. Mesrine is thrilled when the nurse brings out his baby girl.

Later, at home, Mesrine arrives with armloads of presents for the baby, but Sophia seems angry. He asks what's wrong and she says "You were with your friends and whores, weren't you?" He says "Yeah, that's true." she starts storming off but he grabs her and says "You didn't let me finish.Yes, I was with my friends, so what?"
Sophia: No whores?
Mesrine: Why would I do such a thing when I have you?
He sings her a song and kisses her and she laughs.

Mesrine and Paul are planning another job, which Paul claims is easy as there are no vaults. Mesrine questions why he isn't going on the job, and Paul says he has to go with Guido. He agrees to do it anyway, despite misgivings about how easy it will be.

We next see Mesrine entering prison. We see his daughter coming in to visit. He tells her he's her father through the glass divider, and he's overjoyed when she say "papa" for the first time. Sophia is distraught because her parents told her to leave the country and come home to them. He tells her to call his parents and they'll help her, but he needs them to stay.

We next see Mesrine applying for a job, telling an interviewer he just got out of prison for armed robbery. The interviewer overlooks his horrible history and lack of references and offers him a job because he seems sincere. Mesrine has Guido over for dinner with his family, and Sophia mentions his steady job. Guido offers him a job, but he turns it down, saying Sophia is right. Guido tells him they can discuss it later. His boss soon approaches him about the possibility that he'll be letting people go. Mesrine assures him that he understands, although his boss insists he hasn't decided yet. The next day Paul and Guido meet him at his house and Sophia protests. He reveals that he lost his job, but she still insists he stay. He brushes her off again and she tells him if he goes, she'll call the police. This brings him across the room and he punches her, saying "there are things you can't say in front of me. Understand?" She slaps him and he chases her, putting his gun in her mouth and telling her "between you and my friends, I will always choose my friends." Their son appears at the top of the stairs, having seen the incident.

We then see Guido in a ski mask holding a gun to a man at a desk, while Masrine looks through files. The man tells Guido he recognizes him and says "Do you know whose file you're looking for? You're a dead man." Giudo calls him a traitor. The man tells him :The SAO is over,. It fell apart. DeGaulle killed us." Mesrine announces he found the file, and Guido kills the man. Mesrine asks "Why did you do that?" and Guido answers "To prolong my life expectancy." Mesrine says "He was unarmed. You don't do that." but Guido asks if putting a gun in your wife's mouth is ok, which Mesrine insists has nothing to do with it.

Mesrine and Paul are at another poker game. When Mesrine puts his wedding ring in the pot, Paul tries to talk him out of it, but he says that Sophia left, leaving him with the kids. Paul gives a chance to reconsider, but he insists. Paul wins the pot and Mesrine says "Well, fuck Sophia." Leaving the game he's fascinated at how his finger feels without the ring.

Mesrine walks into a bar alone. He's approached by a woman who asks him to buy her a drink. A woman sitting at a booth interrupts and says "Forget it Maggy. The gentleman is with me." He sits down with the woman and thanks her, asking her name which she says is Jeanne (Cecille De France) She insists on buying him a drink although he tells her it's usually the man that treats. "Well, that needs to change." she says. He responds "I'm ready for anything." and she says "So am I." The two of them are next seen enthusiastically robbing a casino without any disguises. Jeanne seems a natural, beating a guy with her shotgun. The owner knows Mesrine and tells him he won't get far. Mesrine just hits him with his shotgun, knocking him out of his chair.

We see Mesrine next, walking with his daughter. She has trouble bouncing a paddle ball. He leans down to help as a passing car shoots at them. His daughter ducks behind a car, and he fires back as they're driving away. He was shot in the arm and heads to Guido to get patched up bringing Jeanne with him. Guido asks Jeanne how far she'll follow him and she says "All the way." Guido advises them to "choose life" and leave the country until things settle down. Guido says "THe mob hates you, the cops want to kill you. Even I can't protect you anymore," Mesrine tells him "Yeah, but my kid? Fuck. THere are rules!" Guido tells him "the only rules are the rules of the jungle." Guido pulls out the bullet and says "Next time you draw. Shoot to kill." Mesrine agrees.

Mesrine leaves his kids with his parents and we see him working construction on a high building in Canada. He meets another guy who tells him "You're a dreamer, Frenchman. That's dangerous at these heights." and asks if he likes the job. Mesrine says that he preferred robbing banks in France. The man introduces himself as Jean Paul Mercier (Roy Dupuis,) "I help finance the Quebec Liberation Front." Mesrine is soon denied citizenship in Canada due to his record, but he tells Jeanne that it'll be fine, just a longer wait than expected. Jeanne tells him he only has to work for another work because she answered a billionaire's ad in the paper for a chauffeur and housekeeper.

Mesrine and Jeanne show up at the billionaire, Deslaurier's (Gilbert Sicotte)  house. We see that he's in a wheelchair. He says "Jacques and Jeanne, my guardian angels. and tells them they not only have a job offer but a blessing for the job. Mesrine is shown later, carrying him into the car.

We flash to Paris, 1969 and we see cops on the street watching Guido's house. We see Guido and Paul inside, reading through mail. Guido shows Paul a postcard from Mesrine. A man gets out of the car outside, walks in, and shoots them both dead.

We see Mesrine and Jeanne at work. He's washing the car, while Jeanne is squabbling with the gardener.Mesrine appears ready to beat the butler, but Jeanne tells him it's ok. The two of them meet with Deslauriers, who tells them the gardener has resigned over the altercation. She claims he's a liar, but Deslauriers points out that he's known the gardener for twenty years and them for just  a few months. He gives them two days to leave the property. Mesrine quickly agrees. That night they visit him in bed.

We see Mesrine and Jeanne watching TV, in a living room, while Deslauriers yells in the background. Mesrine loses patience with the yelling and confronts Deslauriers who is tied up in a room. He asks "What did I do to you, Jacques?" and he answers "You were disrespectful, Georges.To me, but mostly to my wife." Deslauriers insists that his brother will pay their ransom. We then see a meeting at a subway station, where Jean Paul Mercier waits, and it appears several agents are also present. At Mesrine's place, we see Deslauriers open the door of the room and crawl out calling for Jacques. We see Mesrine outside at a pay phone talking to Jean Paul, who says he doesn't think the guy will show. Deslauriers struggles and manages to break a window. We see the police taking him out in a stretcher as Mesrine and Jeanne drive  by.

We then skip to Arizona, 1969 where Mesrine and Jeanne are in a high speed chase, followed by half a dozen police cars, only to realize they're headed for a roadblock. He tells Jeanne "End of the line baby. We're stopping." He stops and they quickly have every gun aimed at them. They surrender peacefully and get taken in, The papers announce "End of the road for Bonnie Schneider and Clyde Mesrine" They are extradited to Canada to face charges for the kidnapping. Mesrine is sentenced to ten years and Jeanne to five. In prison he refuses to accept his number, and tells a guard "Fuck you" when told there's no talking allowed for his first two months. This prompts a visit by the guards who beat him with billy clubs and drag him to a cell without a bed, with the lights kept on at all times. He covers his face with his shirt to try and sleep, but is commanded to remove it from his face. He refuses and they turn on a high pitched siren and flood the room with gas, before sending in guards in gas masks to beat him again and take his clothes. He receives a letter with his meal but the moment he tries to read it they turn off the lights. They next spray him with a fire hose, and tell him solitary is over, releasing him into population.

In the prison yard he takes note of the guard towers and examines the tall barbed wire fence. A fellow inmate, Roger Andre (Deano Clavet)  advises him against thinking of escape. He also tells him that Jean Paul is in solitary as well, due out in two days. Mesrine's put to work in the prison machine shop and greets Jean Paul when he's released from solitary. Mesrine asks about Roger Andre. Jean Paul asks if there's a problem and Mesrine says he doesn't know yet. He tells Jean Paul he's figured a way out, and it's as simple as going through the fence. Jean Paul it's suicide, but Mesrine asks if he has a better idea. He says he doesn't, and agrees when Mesrine says "Before autumn, we're out or dead."

Mesrine asks Roger to get him some wire clippers, promising to free everyone if he gets out. He then shows Jean Paul a blind spot in the restricted area of the yard that the guards don't notice on Mondays, being too hung over. Andre sneaks some clippers out of the machine shop. In broad daylight, Mesrine rushes to clip the fence with Jean Paul as look out. He gets through one fence but has another to get through. Roger distracts the perimeter foot patrol guard by bothering his dog just before Mesrine is discovered. The warden, watching from inside the prison senses something wrong, but Mesrine gets through the fence and tells Jean Paul it's ready.and they scramble out and run. The warden calls an alarm, just as they leave, and they watch the news about their escape on TV later. Mesrine is thrilled that they remember he swore no prison could hold him and refer to him as a gangster who kept his word. He tells Jean Paul, who is busy with a woman. "Glory.:

They quickly begin planning a new bank robbery, Mesrine tells Jean Paul that they have to be in and out in 30 seconds. They rob one bank and then finding another across the street, they rob that one as well. They then prepare for another job, the two of them putting on camouflage, gathering some guns and a pick up truck. They head into the woods to meet with a woman Jean Paul knows, who also has a pick up truck. They tell her they won't be long, then drive to the prison. Roger sees the truck and says "Crazy Frenchy" realizing Mesrine is keeping his word about getting them all out.

The prisoners cheer before the tower starts firing warning shots, and a cruiser shows up to stop Mesrine. The other towers start firing on him as well. Mesrine and Jean Paul start firing back, taking out a few of them. Mesrine is shot in the leg while throwing something over the fence, which makes it get caught on the razor wire at the top. Roger's large friend Mailloche, runs for the fence to try and get the package down but gets shot by a tower guard. Mesrine throws a gun over to Roger, who takes out a few guards before getting shot. Jean Paul gets shot as well, but not fatally, and throws a grenade at a cruiser, blowing it up. They drive right through another cruiser that tries to block them. Mesrine asks Jean Paul, who's slumped over, if he's alright, Jean Paul tells him to step on it. They meet back with Jean Paul's girlfriend, who gets them in the truck. Mesrine throws a grenade at their own truck and they take off.

The newspapers announce that Mesrine is "Public Enemy Number 1" We see him in an office with a woman lawyer, Attorney Baron. We then see Jeanne being escorted to a prison phone for a call. We see Attorney Baron answer the phone and give it to Mesrine. Jeanne tells him everything is fine, but he insists it isn't, telling her he'll get better and come for her. He mentions that he's with Jean Paul and they have weapons. She tells him not to do anything as her sentence is almost up. He won't listen although she repeats the request. She says "Jacques, they know you're going to come. And, they're going to kill you. Understand?"
He tells her "No one kills me until I say so. I'm coming." He tells her to "stay ready." she says "It's over Jacques.We're over." and hangs up. On split screen we see him considering this, and Jeanne breaking down sobbing.

Mesrine and Jean Paul with his girlfriend head out in the woods for target practice. As they're leaving, a pick up truck approaches while Jean Paul is putting his pistol in the trunk. He grabs a shotgun, holding hit out of sight behind the trunk lid. Mesrine arms himself, telling the woman it'll be alright.Two men get out of the truck with guns and ask Mesrine if they've been doing all the shooting. Jean Paul claims he thought it was bird hunting season. The rangers tell them it isn't. One of them recognizes Mesrine as an escapee, and they're about to fire when Jean Paul and Mesrine fire first. Mesrine tells Jean Paul they'll get the chair if they're caught for this. Jean Paul reminds him of what he said in prison, "Out or Dead." Mesrine agrees "Out or Dead" and shoots the second  ranger.

We then see text which reads "Jean Paul Mercier shot dead by Canadian Police two years later during a hold up"
"After the attack on the SCU by Mesrine and Mercier, an investigation on the conditions of the SCU prisoners was ordered. The Investigations findings lead to the SCU's definitive closure."

"Jeanne Schneider serves her sentence at Fleury Merogis Prison and spends her days in France, Free."

As for Jacques Mesrine, End of Part one."

What About it?

Mesrine:Killer Instinct: Part 1 is a pretty straightforward gangster film of the rise to power variety, often associated with American gangsters like Dillinger and Capone. Mesrine (pronounced May-reen) has been called "the French Dillinger" and it's easy to see some parallels. While the film is informed by Mesrine's autobiography, it doesn't attempt to be a documentary, nor does it attempt to paint Mesrine as any kind of Robin hood figure. Ultimately, he's a conflicted character and a natural opportunist. He has more than his fair share of charisma, and is willing to risk everything to get what he wants, but he isn't shown as heroic as much as confused. This film is the first of two parts, and is only concerned with establishing his character and getting him to Public Enemy number one status. That being said, it works very well as a stand alone film, giving us a very complete story with a hint of things to come.

Mesrine, unlike Dillinger, doesn't have the prohibition to aid his power grab. He does however, have some turbulent political times. He's clearly not happy with the French government or with his own family traditions. Although his parents dote on him, he clearly resents his father's lack of assertiveness, viewing him as part of the French problem. When he addresses his father about this, we get as much disappointment as anger. He tells him that all he wants is to be able to just once be proud of his father, rather than watching him take what he's given, never saying a word in protest. He has similar issues with his country it seems, and these are enhanced by his time in the brutal prison system. He soon starts proclaiming himself a revolutionary, although his political platform is limited to robberies it seems. It's impossible to know how sincere his belief is, and how much is purely for the benefit of his public image. His behavior suggests a gangster first, who is happy if any revolution occurs as a by product.

Mesrine is not a gangster out to lead an organization, and seems to lack a large plan, choosing instead to adapt to the situations that present themselves. He doesn't seem to know what to expect from his first meeting with Guido, only that he will demand personal respect and habitually distrusts authority whether from Guido or the law. In line with his "revolutionary" thinking, he also falls back on a personal code and rather than trying to take power for himself, once he trusts Guido, he's content to work for him. His standard MO is to work with a partner although in his line of work, his partner often changes. His flair for over the top behavior however, always makes Mesrine the "star" of his own show. On his first job we see Paul get nervous when the people they're robbing return home. Mesrine however doesn't miss a beat, before pretending they're cops investigating a robbery. His adaptability is his greatest asset and while it doesn't keep him from getting caught it does keep him coming back after every setback.

It does take Mesrine time to settle into the gangster role, initially trying to bounce back and forth between a family man and a gangster. He finds however that his adaptability is stretched to it's limit, when his wife perhaps can, but doesn't want to reconcile the two sides of him and refuses to back down from her demands. His need for respect drives him too far, and when she threatens to call the police, he beats her and holds a gun in her mouth, needing to "make an example." This ensures that she leaves him, and we see that his next girlfriend is not as much the storybook partner but his partner in crime. By that point, he's abandoned his "family man" ideas and is even willing to leave his kids with his parents once an attempt to kill him puts his daughter in danger. In a very real sense, he manages to "escape" the family life and focus on his criminal career, although his efforts to stay free and alive do bring lulls in his activity.

Mesrine's course of action is often changed by seeming chance, although he uses "chance" to justify his actions, his opportunism ever at work. We see Mesrine's first employer after prison broaching the possibility of lay offs, although making it clear that they're not definite. Mesrine however, jumps on the chance to justify another job for Guido, reasoning that he gave the honest job a shot, calling it quits before the outcome was really determined. We see this again when he and Jeanne are hired by the billionaire. For a time, the two of them seem happy doing the jobs they were paid to do. However, once he can claim the Jeanne was disrespected, he leaps at the chance to stage a kidnapping. Thus, he uses his moral code to justify his criminal activities, and he's delighted when the press calls him "the bandit who keeps his word." He not only believes, but begins encouraging his own press.

We see the problems with his code mainly when dealing with Guido. He questions Guido for shooting an unarmed man, and Guido logically compares this to Mesrine putting a gun in his own wife's mouth. Mesrine insists that the two incidents are not comparable, perhaps knowing that he wouldn't pull the trigger, or perhaps making a distinction between business conduct and personal. It isn't until later, when Guido is removing a bullet from Mesrine, that Mesrine actually listens to Guido's advice that "the only law is the law of the jungle." which he accepts, but nevertheless continues to paint himself as a revolutionary and an "honest gangster." Whether this is a remnant of his before crime values, or just a way he seizes to become more popular in the press, we don't know, although we do sense that his morals are flexible. We do get the sense that more than money, Mesrine celebrates being known, greatly enjoying his own notoriety. We end up with a portrait of a man who is capable of anything including cold blooded murder, but doesn't enjoy the act other than as a means to an end, or as "justified" retaliation. Which is not to say that he feels badly about it when it happens, as he doesn't seem to be bothered by any sort of guilt. His approach is very pragmatic. He imagines himself a businessman who uses the tools at his disposal but only when necessary, a robber first, who murders as a means to an end. His need for notoriety however only increases and his anti authority streak leads him further towards attempts at the impossible (planning to break Jeanne out of prison) as if he believes he is so remarkable that he warrants his own set of rules.

Director Jean-Francois Richet has crafted a great looking film, giving Mesrine's grimy world a glossy shine. Even without clothes in solitary confinement we know that we're looking at the world of a character who is larger than life. He focuses on characters memorably, giving each of them distinct personalities, not only by their performances but by the scenery attached to them, and the shots which introduce them. He clearly knows the look of a "gangster" and the conventions of the gangster movie. The scene introducing Jeanne for example, tells us before they really meet that she's a capable Bonnie to Mesrine's Clyde. The dialogue always feels authentic and the cast delivers wonderfully. Cecile De France is a magnificent Jeanne. We believe her when she says she's "ready for anything" and in the next scene she's robbing a casino without hesitation. We still believe her later, when she breaks up with Mesrine in prison to save his life. Elena Anaya's Sofia also has a terrific complexity, initially marked by the need to say no and give in later. She quickly evolves from naive to cynical, drawn to Mesrine by the same qualities she can't tolerate. Gerard Depardieu is perfect as Guido a man who is a gangster, but not so attached to the baggage that he isn't also a good friend. His introduction scene is a perfect example of  how he plays with this knowledge, because he can. Vincent Cassel seems as if he were born for the part of Mesrine, reconciling all the characters contradictions to seem as if they make sense. We believe that they make sense to him, throughout the wide range of events he goes through.

In Mesrine, we have a confusing character, who values his independence above all else, yet can't go long without a woman at his side. While he makes his money via robbery, it never seems that money is his goal, Mesrine's overriding need is be important, and we can believe that he values a good headline even more than staying alive. For a man who doesn't want to answer to others, he needs their admiration and respect tremendously and will risk certain capture or death only to claim bragging rights if he lives. We watch Mesrine shed conventional attachments only to replace them with his own versions. In Guido, he finds a father figure he can respect, in Jeanne, a woman who can love him and celebrate his lifestyle. We don't believe that Mesrine is a true revolutionary.  He has issues with his society but he doesn't pin them down or have allegiance to any solution. His revolutionary stance, seems true to form, a justification for his thrill seeking. He wants to make a statement but doesn't seem to know what that statement is. Nonetheless, he wants you to hear it while he tries figure it out. He comes across as a fully fleshed out human being, with bad days and good, swinging from reprehensible to almost decent at times. He can't keep himself from grasping for more, although he's as confused about what he wants as he is by what he has to say, and ends up a gangster well suited for our times, another guy that wants to be famous, but isn't sure why or what to do with celebrity other than to keep feeding it. All in all a great looking and exciting picture, with a smart script and top notch actors, which proves a worthy update to the gangster film lineage. I have to imagine that Dillinger would be just as lost if he lived in these times.