By ERIK ZOTTNICK
In “Mesrine: Public Enemy #1,” the second of this two-part epic, Mesrine isn’t quite as brutal as he was in the first movie, but he’s still just as charismatic.
Vincent Cassell delivers another intense and electric performance, playing the lead Jacques Mesrine, with an additional 40 pounds. It’s a very enjoyable movie, not as punctuated by violence and brutality as the first half.
There’s no exposition to run through this time, so the film takes off and rarely stops. Those looking for another great gangster movie may have found it in this.
The film starts out immediately after Mesrine’s execution in the streets of Paris. What proceeds is a collection of robberies, shootouts, escapes, and much of Mesrine’s ego and delusions as his head expands to ridiculous proportions.
From what the film presents, he seems to be a very charming, smooth-talking man who’s quick on his feet and can escape the most dangerous situations that would easily consume lesser men. Indeed, these situations do consume them.
For the duration of the movie, Mesrine is on the run from the state, whose bureaucracy grows increasingly irritated, and whose public seems to grow increasingly fascinated with this undoubtedly interesting outlaw.
It’s a rather fast film that pauses at times, but still clips along well. I enjoyed myself watching it. There are enough action scenes that it sometimes plays like a thriller with plenty of tense moments as Mesrine narrowly evades capture. There are even comedic moments to keep things a little light.
Overall, the picture is well-acted, paced, and directed with frenetic camerawork and gorgeous cinematography that remains consistent with the first film. It’s a little headier than most action movies, but doesn’t delve too deep, as its subject, a psychopath, doesn’t have so much depth to begin with. There are moments where Mesrine feels the guilt of what he’s done, especially with family members, but these are never lingered on too long.
As for the violence, there’s a lot of it, especially many shootouts and one particularly brutal beating and execution. Mesrine is still abusive to those around him, particularly women. He spouts philosophical rhetoric to justify his means, but we know he’s just a criminal masquerading. He often becomes enraged when the press doesn’t report on his actions, as he loves his notoriety as much as he loves himself.
Things grow increasingly desperate as Mesrine sees his days coming to an end and the situation worsens. The end is always there, the clock’s always ticking. However, the ride there makes it all worth it.