Thursday, September 16, 2010

Gangster life with a French accent

Jacques Mesrine (Vincent Cassel) was one tough customer.
Mesrine: Killer Instinct is part one of a pair of gangster movies that opens in Denver Friday (Sept. 17) and continues with a second installment – Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1 – on the following Friday. In the hands of director Jean-Francois Richet, the narrative can be alarmingly choppy, but a spectacular performance by Vincent Cassel (as the notorious Jacques Mesrine) turns the two movies into must-see gangster viewing. Richet traces Mesrine’s origins from his service in the French army in Algeria to his death in 1979. Richet hints at the gangster's motivations, but never skimps on showing Mesrine's brutality. That’s important: Mesrine proves a charismatic and nervy figure, but his behavior -- particularly when it involves violence -- is nothing less than appalling. Part one includes a fine performance from a heftier than ever Gerard Depardieu; Part 2 makes room for Mathieu Amalric, as a thief who’s appalled by the way Mesrine courts the media. Mesrine evidently had a knack for escaping from prison, as well as for self-promotion. It’s a bit of a cheat to do a quick-hit review on four hours worth of movies, but if you love gangster fare, Richet's richly realized look at a real-life French master criminal should become part of your movie-going vocabulary. (French with English subtitles.)

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