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Mesrine

Killer Instinct
Public Enemy #1



a film (or two) by
Jean-Francois Richet

I am hesitant to do so because it may seem as if I dislike the film more than I really do, but I must call Jean-Pierre Richet's 2-part Mesrine (subtitled Killer Instinct and Public Enemy #1 respectively) the biggest disappointment of the cinematic year. Granted, there are moments of sheer giddy gangster genre brilliance in the film, and Vincent Cassell is amazing (as always) in the lead role (a supporting cast led by Gerard Depardieu and Cecile De France in fun and fantastic performances also shines), and the filmmaker's riffing on everything from Public Enemy and Scarface to Gun Crazy to The Godfather and Goodfellas is something akin to a love letter to this cinephile's usually jaded heart, but I must still stand by my opening proclamation (however hesitantly it came forth) and call the film - or two films actually - the biggest let down of the year. The worst part is, I really really (really!) wanted to like this film. In fact, after first seeing the trailer and reading the early reviews, I wanted to love this film - more than half-expecting to include it on my obligatory yearly top ten list. Alas true believers, such love and adoration are just not in the cards for Richet's epic gangster tale - and you can just put all those top ten ideas out of your mind right now as well.

Yes, the film opens (and let's just call this two-piece companion project one film from here on in, since that is basically what these/this are/is) with a brilliantly, albeit rather gimmicky seventies-esque split screen and follows that up with many a stunning scene, all done with a peculiar, but quite interesting neo-retro feel (and a debt to Scorsese that can never be repaid), and M. Cassell hands in one of the finest and most delirious performances seen this year (Muni's Scarface meets Pacino's), but no matter how many of these moments there are in the film - and there are enough of said moments to keep the film above water certainly - and no matter how rambunctious Cassell's gangster becomes - and he becomes the monster we all hoped he would become - nothing ever seems to gel into any sort of cohesive force - especially the force to be reckoned with this critic more than half expected the film to be when first going in. Instead, we get a series of disjointed set pieces and a bravura acting experience all of which make for a series of brilliant little short films all in a row, but nothing of a so-called big picture ever arrives - and that is what disappoints the most. Tres chic indeed (and much better than I seem to be giving it credit for being), but alas, the whole is never equal to the sum of its parts. [11/27/10]

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