Mesrine: Killer Instinct and Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1, the gripping two-part crime biopic of notorious French crook Jacques Mesrine, were released separately, three weeks apart, in UK cinemas last summer, but their appearance on a two-disc DVD offers the chance to see them back to back.
The first film, Killer Instinct, shows how Mesrine (played with dangerous charisma and audacious panache by Vincent Cassel) began his criminal career after he left the French army in 1959 and hooked up with Gérard Depardieu’s Paris gangster, a shady figure linked to right-wing terror group the OAS. His criminal exploits take him to the Spain and the French Riviera, the USA (briefly) and to Canada, where he staged a spectacular prison escape.
The second film, Public Enemy Number 1, takes Mesrine’s story into the 1970s, when such exploits as kidnapping the judge at his own trial made him a legend. He comes top of both police most-wanted lists and magazine popularity polls, but a bloody end – as the opening scene of the first film has made clear – is waiting around the corner.
The DVDs both contain impressively thorough making-of documentaries featuring on-set interviews with director Jean-François Richet, star Cassel and such co-stars as Cécile de France (who plays the Bonnie to his Clyde in Part 1) and Ludivine Sagnier (who plays his last girlfriend in Part 2). We learn a good deal about Mesrine along the way, but he’s such a fascinating figure that you’re left wanting to know and see more.