| This four-hour crime thriller from director Jean-Francois Richet (“Assault on Precinct 13”) and screenwriter Abdel Raouf Dabri is so massive in scope that it had to be divided into two parts. It is the true story of the notorious French outlaw Jacques Mesrine (pronounced May-reen) and is based on his memoir.
Mesrine was a gangster to some and a hero to others, but to everyone he was a legend. This riveting story charts his lawbreaking odyssey that includes 32 bank heists, two kidnappings of rich men for ransom, four stints in maximum security prisons and four daring prison escapes.
The complete package needs to be seen in its entirety and in the correct order. This masterpiece combines the best of “Scarface,” ‘The Godfather” and “Bonnie and Clyde.”
Vincent Cassel (“Eastern Promises,” “Derailed” and the upcoming “Black Swan”) tackles the demanding lead role and is simply magnificent. He oozes charm and charisma as a slick con man always surrounded by beautiful women. There is no shortage of action, violence and sex.
Mesrine’s most famous line is “Nobody kills me until I say so.” A prelude to his ultimate demise is shown over the opening credits with various camera angles and a split-screen. The movie then begins in Algeria 1959 when Mesrine as a French soldier first displays his violent tendencies during the torture and interrogation of a prisoner. He returns home after his military service ends. He meets mob boss Guido (Gerard Depardieu) and pulls off some residential burglaries with his friend Paul (Gilles Lellouche).
Mesrine goes with Paul on a vacation to Spain. He meets local girl Sofia (Elena Anaya), a virgin. He ends up marrying her when she becomes pregnant.
He turns to robbing banks. After being found guilty of armed robbery and serving a prison term, Mesrine decides to refrain from living on the edge and takes a steady job. His employer has financial problems and Mesrine is forced to go back to his criminal ways. Sofia is fed up and leaves him with their three children.
Mesrine meets the Bonnie to his Clyde at a gentleman’s club in 1966. Her name is Jeanne Schneider (Cecile De France from “Hereafter” and “A Secret”). They ultimately take off for Montreal, Canada.
Part 1 spans 15 years, building in momentum, and lays the groundwork for part 2.
The continuation of the story in 1973 finds Mesrine back in France to face justice for his flamboyant crimes. He reaches the top of the most-wanted list and is pursued by Police Commissioner Robert Broussard (Olivier Gourmet), the head of the anti-crime unit.
He meets a new partner, Francois Besse (Mathieu Amalric from “Quantum of Solace,” “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” and Munich”), in prison. He finds another love interest in the shapely and beautiful Sylvia Jeanjacquot (Ludivine Sagnier from “Swimming Pool”).
Mesrine turns out to be a master of disguise, a gourmet chef and budding revolutionary seeking reforms in a harsh penal system.
You never tire of the rich storytelling, which manages to inject some humor in with the fireworks and shootouts.
The 2009 Cesar Awards (French equivalent of the Oscars) named Cassel as Best Actor and Richet as Best Director. The movie also won for Best Sound. It was nominated for Best Film, Adapted Screenplay, Cinematography, Editing, Costume Design, Production Design and Musical Score. It is an instant classic not to be missed on a big screen.
The dialogue is in French with easy-to-read English subtitles. Both parts will be shown exclusively at the Glenwood Arts with alternating show times on the weekend and on alternating days during the week. A combo ticket for both parts is available at the box office for the discounted price of $10.
Keith Cohen "The Movie Guy"