Jacques Mesrine was a notorious French criminal in the 1960’s and 70’s. His exploits were made into a mediocre film in 1984 and two excellent movies in 2008 – Mesrine: Part 1 – Killer Instinct and Mesrine: Part 2 – Public Enemy #1.

Directed by Jean-Fran├žois Richet (Assault on Precinct 13) and starring Vincent Cassel as Mesrine, the first part was based on Mesrine’s novel L’Instinct de Mort (“The Death Instinct”) which he wrote while in prison in the ’70s. The second film continues from where the first film (and novel) stops – leading up to Mesrine’s death in 1979.

Jacques Mesrine was one of those celebrity criminals who loved his own hype. He robbed banks and escaped from prisons – a lot. His exploits took him from France to Canada, into the U.S., back into Canada and eventually back to France. Cassel plays Mesrine as a likable but flawed person. Mesrine was a master of disguise and Cassel excels at changing his appearance throughout the film.

These are extremely entertaining movies. Don’t get me wrong – I highly recommend them. My only complaint is a minor one. The start of the first film is a tightly edited piece set in 1979 on Mesrine’s last day on Earth and then moves to 1959 and the start of Mesrine’s criminal career. The second film starts with the aftermath of the events in 1979 and then continues with his exploits in the early 1970’s – leading up to 1979 where the film ends with the exact same scenes as the first film – but told from a different perspective. It’s kind of cool but the tension is gone. As a viewer I already know what’s going to happen – the director has already shown it to the audience twice. There is no other way to end the film and while it’s an awesome opening – maybe starting at the end isn’t the wisest decision.

The U.S. Trailer.

The opening of Mesrine: Part 1 – Killer Instinct.