Mesrine part 2: Public Enemy No 1 movie review
Deftly picking up the narrative from Part 1 without even a recap, this is not a sequel so much as a conclusion of Jacques Mesrine’s life story. Whilst it is strong enough to exist on its own, audiences would be well advised to see this only after watching the first part.
At the start of this chapter, Mesrine is already well established in the French media as a raffish rogue, ennobled to the public by his daring prison escapes, and enjoying the trappings of his notoriety more than the life of crime itself. The opening act sees a capture by the police, the inevitable bold escape from which leads Jacques and the audience on a prolonged road trip as he continues to elude the authorities. Once that journey eventually exhausts his attention, it’s back to high profile kidnaps and courting the media – a path that can lead to no good, and one that ultimately brings the audience inexorably back to the first scene from Part 1, and the last of Mesrine’s life.
Once again, Cassel is on blistering form throughout this, dancing from “Charismatic Media Whore” to “Grotesque Monster” in the blink of an eye, seemingly without qualms about his sometimes absurd metamorphoses, chin-strap beard included.
The film is a bit more Cat-and-Mouse than the former, so we are allowed to spend time with the increasingly frustrated police force, and by the time the credits roll you may find yourself less certain about which side to root for.
It’s refreshing these days to see a biopic follow the full length of a man’s life, rather than just a specific chapter from it, and the combined 2 parts of Mesrine have done that expertly. A rare achievement in itself, hampered in no way by the consistently high production values and acting calibre – miss it at your peril.