Mesrine – Killer Instinct Review: The French Connection
Vincent Cassel is a man who doesn’t have to say a word for you to know that he’s French.
The eyes, the tash, the swagger. My pants fell off the second he appeared on screen.
This skill is essential to play the seductive criminal Jacques Mesrine; legend in France and Quebec, but unless you paid attention in French or history class, you probably won’t know about him. He was a gangster, bank robber, kidnapper and all around smooth criminal. Cassel isn’t hugely known to Western audiences either, but you may recognise him from Ocean’s Twelve and Thirteen. He’s a talented actor whose Jacques is attractive but also violent and unpredictable.
After his time in the army, Jacques returns to France and joins up with local gangster boss, Guido, played by Gerard ‘Bogus’ Depardieu. His hot, young Spanish wife might look familiar too (if you’re a fan of crappy movies) as she played chief vampire bride, Aleera, in Van Helsing.
Maybe this is just the Westerner in me but it felt like Scorsese has influenced the style of the movie as there are some similarities between Goodfellas and The Departed. Jacques and his pals are slicker than an oil spill when they start their criminal careers in the late 50s: the boys spend their time with prostitutes, gambling and telling their parents to go fuck themselves. Who doesn’t love the French?
There’s a lot of violence in this one so if you’re looking for hugs and puppies, steer clear. I had to watch through my fingers as Jacques is essentially tortured in a Canadian prison. Shooting kneecaps, glass in faces and a brutal attack on Jacques favourite prostitute, Sarah. While other gangster movies show a loyalty to their wives (even though they cheat on them), when Jacques wife Sophia begs him to stay with her, he shoves a gun in her mouth and proclaims: “Between you and my friends, I choose my friends over you every time.”
There are going to be some comparisons to Johnny Depps’ John Dillinger from the recently released Public Enemies, so let’s get them out the way. Both labelled ‘Public Enemy No.1’ and both robbed banks. That’s pretty much it. Dillinger was a smooth criminal who was as successful as a criminal can get until he’s caught. Mesrine was a bit of a rubbish crook but was so sexy no one really cared.
The script is tight like a tiger and the acting is on another level; Cassel excels in the lead and it’s really good to see Gerard Depardieu again. He’s stayed away from British and American films for a while but he’s so good as Guido, here’s hoping that he’ll come back to us. That’s a nose I want to see on the big screen more often.
The women aren’t given much to do here but look upset, so it rocked hard when Jacques finally found a Bonnie to his Clyde in Jeanne. Much like Public Enemies, each part, no matter how small, was cast perfectly which gives flavour to each scene. At points it feels like it’s a little longer than it needs to be but any feelings like that are subdued by the fact that you know the next scene is definitely going to be a good one.
‘No one kills me until I say so’.
Roll on part two.