Since I was watching these on Netflix Watch Instantly, I rolled right into a double feature of Mesrine: Part 1: Killer Instinct and Mesrine: Part 2: Public Enemy #1. The films are based on an actual person and for some reason I enjoyed them a lot more because of this.
If you couldn't tell, Part I was interesting enough for me to take on Part 2. If you read this blog, you know that I have an affinity for crime stories. I usually find myself rooting for the bad guy. And Mesrine is definitely the bad guy. Having just returned to Paris from the war in Algiers he dives into a life of crime, starting small and growing into Public Enemy #1 in France. His travels even take him to Montreal, where his crime spree continues. He escapes from jail an astounding four times. How that is even possible I don't know, but it is fun to watch.
Both films are somewhat episodic - as any person's life could be. He leaves country after country and woman after woman - even abandoning his children, who at one point seem to turn him into a working man. But they are barely brought up again. But his life is chaotic and stretches continents, so it is easy to believe that the characters in his life were constantly changing (this is why it was easier for me to accept and like the films). While they are both sometimes meandering, Cassel is always engaging. He portrays this somewhat charismatic, but sociopathic criminal teetering on the verge of violence at any second with ease. Sometimes you watch a movie and think - oh, that's George Clooney playing so and so. Cassel inhabits this character. He becomes Jacques Mesrine. It is almost haunting.
Director Jean-Francois Richet is a skillful filmmaker and the film itself is beautiful, with the cinematography dropping us right into the 60's and 70's.
If you're a fan of crime movies, or larger than life personalities, check it out. It got me even more interested in checking out Carlos, which has been sitting in my queue for a while now.