We first met uber-bank robber Jacque Mesrine at the start of his career in “Killer Instinct.” The second installment in Jacky’s incendiary story brings us up to date on the daring exploits of the man called “Mesrine: Public Enemy #1.”
While the “Mesrine” couplet is a continuous story, the two films have a very different feel. This, I think, is because the first film sets the stage for the second. In “Killer Instinct,” we meet and get to know the audacious and arrogant Jacques. Walking into the second installment, I knew Mesrine quite well, so I was immediately comfortable with the character and his mission in life: money, money, money and more money.”
Vincent Cassel, I said in my review of the first “Mesrine,” wears “his character like a custom fit suit” and does so again, though this time he gets a whole tailored wardrobe of audacity. From his daring escape from a maximum security prison with fellow convict Francoise Besse (Mathieu Almaric) to his arrogant visit, in disguise, to a police station with his Public Enemy #1 wanted poster in plain sight, Jacques proves that he has balls. Despite his penchant for violence, Mesrine comes across as a Robin Hood like character in the French public’s mind.
Director Jean-Françoise Rivet ramps up the action, if that is possible, with “Public Enemy #1” as Mesrine grows to increasingly believe that he is invincible and that robbing banks is his right. If you know the story of Jacques Mesrine, you know things are not going to end well for the man. Heck, his demise is foretold at the beginning of both films so the ending is no surprise. Getting there, though is full of surprises as Mesrine and his partners pull off one big heist after another, eluding police nearly ever time. Those times he is caught, you know that he will escape and with an arrogant flair.
I hope the DVD has both films on it so you can view the saga in its entirety in one sitting in the comfort of your own home. I give it an A-.
Part two of the legendary French gangster's biopic has a longer runtime for a much shorter timespan and is, therefore, less choppy. Ironically, it's also a little less exhilarating if no less compelling. "Public Enemy No. 1" follows Mesrine from his most audacious breakout right from the courtroom in 1973 through his final two partners and last moll. His flirtation with the media intensifies and almost backfires while the gangster flirts with terrorism and revolution. A-