It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
Jacques Mesrine was a brutal man who shot dead 39 victims during his 20-year run as a bank robber and kidnapper. That total doesn't include the prisoners, possibly dozens, executed point blank after they'd been tortured during France's war against Algeria. Mesrine escaped from two high-security prisons, kidnapped a millionaire, broke back into one of the prisons in an attempt to free his friends and went on the lam in Quebec, Arizona and Florida.
Yes, but he was a particularly French criminal who claimed he was an anarchist, protested prison conditions, described all his killings as acts of revolution against the state and wrote two best sellers that were compared by some to the works of Camus. When he was France's Public Enemy No. 1 and every French police officer was participating in a manhunt, he granted exclusive interviews and wrote tender love poems to his lawyer.
This is too much man for one movie, and he has gotten two, the first and second parts of "Mesrine." They're rolling out one after the other in North America, which usually doesn't work at the box office, but "Part 1" opens with his car trapped behind a truck when its back canvas goes up and French cops open fire, killing his girlfriend Sylvia (Ludivine Sagnier) and his dog, and wounding him 14 times in the chest and head. Only wounding him? Yes, and then the screen promises: "Mesrine: Part II." (I'm assuming he wasn't murdered; if he was, the second movie would have to be in reverse chronology or extremely slow motion. In any event, the knowledge that Mesrine dies colors everything, although everyone in France would know that anyway.
Mesrine, played with rough intensity by Vincent Cassel, was the most famous criminal in French history, and he came to that role only late in his career, after he was already famous in Canada and the United States. The Montreal papers called him and Jeanne "the French Bonnie and Clyde." He outdid Dillinger by robbing two banks across the street from each other within 10 minutes, and like Dillinger, he was an expert in self-publicity. Was the police ambush an assassination attempt? The police denied it, but he predicted it, and he promised he would never be taken without gunfire. He was known as a master of disguise and moved boldly in public when his face was on every TV screen. In a touch too good for fiction, he took Jeanne to Cape Kennedy to watch the Apollo moon launch.