Mesrine: Part 1 – Killer Instinct movie review

honheehaw

It would be increasingly hard to dispute that Vincent Cassel is France’s most prolific and versatile actor living today. His starring role in 1995 Parisian ghetto drama “La Haine” brought him to the attention of the world; subsequent roles in infamous works such as Dobermann, Eastern Promises, and Irréversible have shown that he’s not averse to the darker end of the cinematic spectrum, whilst cameos in Hollywood farce like the Ocean’s.. trilogy have shown his more playful side.

Gangster biopic “Mesrine” deftly marries these elements, bringing out his best. “Mesrine: Part 1- Killer Instinct” is an Origins story, telling the rise to (in)fame of the notorious French gangster. Starting in the late 1950’s, the film tracks 20-something Mesrine’s return from the Algerian War, his dismay at civilian life, and inevitable segue into the criminal underworld. It would seem that Mesrine is something of a Robin Hood cult hero in France, an attitude that is perpetuated in this film.

Whether you are familiar with the real-life facts or not, this is an incredibly stylized and stylish portrayal of the man’s life, feeling at many points like a Scorsese and De Palma collaborative project that has been lost in the archives since the mid-70s. Cassel appears to be channeling Early De Niro, happily losing himself in the role as cheeky anti-hero Mesrine, going through the numerous physical metamorphoses, identities and disguises that the role dictated.

Both parts of the Mesrine biopic have been massive box office hits in their native France, and it is easy to see why – a witty script, powerhouse acting performances, the odd flash of ultraviolence, and oozing Gallic style from every pore. Of course, the small matter of subtitles may be enough to deter the curious English-speaking punter, but really shouldn’t be insurmountable to anyone who has any interest in seeing one of the most enthralling and exciting gangster movies of recent history.

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