Mesrine: Killer Instinct (L'instinct de mort) - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Mesrine: Killer Instinct (L'instinct de mort) Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ October 23, 2012
Killer Instinct is the story of notorious criminal Jacques Mesrine who progressed from petty crime on the streets of Paris to become Canada's public enemy number one. Kind of like a Gallic Goodfellas, Mesrine is based on a real gangster and similarly spans decades of his life. Vincent Cassel puts in a quality performance as the charismatic psychopath who became a media sensation in the early 1970s and although he is hardly the most likeable protagonist, his outlandish acts are consistently both entertaining to watch and quite incredible to believe. There are some quality set pieces, the scene in which he and his partner single-handedly attack a maximum security prison in which they were both tortured is a particular highlight. It is a little episodic and it lacks the depth of characterisation that draws you fully into this kind of life story, but it is always exciting to watch and I am very much looking forward to Part Two.
Super Reviewer
October 10, 2010
The first of the two part "Mesrine" films, this is much more of an introduction into the life of the titular character than it is a true crime biopic. It shows the life leading up to his infamous prison break and subsequent crime spree. Real life criminal Jacques Mesrine led a long and interesting life, starting in the French Army, stationed in Algiers. With the army training him in torture and murder, Mesrine rose through the ranks of the criminal elite early, embracing friends and colleagues in order to become a petty thief and armed robber. Throughout the film we see Mesrine struggle with trying to keep his family together, and when he becomes unemployed, we see the destructive rage and violence he can enact on his loved ones. There's very little empathy or understanding in Vincent Cassel's performance as the troubled crook, hell-bent on sustaining himself through crime. Not only that but he is a survivor of a corrupt prison, a runaway, a thief, and a madman. Throughout the film we see the steady incline from low level criminal to the raving hellion he comes to be. Great performances from the women of the film as well, including Anaya as his beaten down wife, and De France as his companion Jeanne, following him on a spree through the United States after a foiled kidnapping in Canada. The plot moves quite fast, so some life events feel hurried and not completely covered, which is to make room for the impending sequel, "Public Enemy # 1." Though I don't think this should have been a two part film, it's very interesting, and all performances are crisp, never even tempered, and awash in gritty violence. This man is beyond interesting, both a rogue maniac and a survivor in most respects, making this a great watch.
Super Reviewer
½ October 15, 2013
Mesrine: Killer Instinct is one of the best crime dramas that I've seen in quite some time. The film is based on the real life of Jacques Mesrine, a notorious French bank robber and murderer who became France's Public Enemy Number One. the film which stars Vincent Cassel in the lead role is phenomenal and looks like the real guy. The film tells about his rise in crime, and how he became one of the most wanted criminals in France's history. Gerard Depardieu also stars and both men are terrific in the film. Mesrine is an accomplished Crime film that is only rivaled by Martin Scorsese's finest genre films. The film is riveting in its execution, and the performances are top notch. With this first part of Mesrine's story, we get to see why he was revered by the public, but really he was a cold blooded criminal that was a menace to society. Director Jean-Francois Richet crafts a stunning gangster film that will delight genre fans. The film is raw, gritty and ugly. Mesrine was not a figure to admire, and director Richet captures that aspect perfectly. Brilliantly told, and with a strong performance in the lead role, Mesrine: Killer Instinct is a taught drama that never glamorizes the exploits of the infamous Jacques Mesrine. If you enjoy the genre, give this film a shot, you will surely enjoy it. I found the film to be very entertaining and well executed. Crime films are hard to do, mostly because the ideas tend to be overly clichéd and slightly predictable. However here, since this film is based on real events, it makes for a highly engaging film going experience that is unflinching because the story of Jacques Mesrine is quite interesting, and this film, along with its second half strips away the Robin Hood quality that the Press of the era gave him.
Super Reviewer
½ August 13, 2012
Stereotypes die hard.

Now, I haven't seen enough French films to place valid stereotypes on the entire French film industry, but from the few that I've seen, I would say that these are the stereotypes:
- Extremely gritty and dark. Unafraid to get into every nook and cranny of its dark universe, but doesn't always have emotion, thematic, moralistic, or artistic substance to back up its bold embrace towards the dark.
- Plot points always involve some sort of taboo-breaking violence or sexual act for the sake of shock value and nothing more.
- Almost always a gangster film.
- Focuses so much on realism that artistic value takes a back seat.

"Mesrine: Killer Instinct" matches every stereotype mentioned but considerably fails to immerse audience members in its narrative and characters. It's gritty and bleak, coupled with an emotionally disattached narrative and borderline taboo-breaking violence. I'm all down for dark films -- as a matter of fact, I embrace it. But when a film decides to portray a gritty tone, there's gotta be a reason behind it other than for style. This has been my number one griping issue with many of the French films that I've seen. Killer Instinct is no different, in fact, worse compared to other French movies which leads to my biggest issue with this film: The direction.

Killer Instinct's narrative shoots out in a very linear fashion. Nothing wrong with that, as long as its commanding throughout. As the scenes roll along, I began to realize that Killer Instinct does just that: It shows sequences of events with no opinion, no emotion, no siding, no themes, or no morals. It tells it as it is. In other words, there's zero substance found here other then the portrayal of the actual plot points. As one would probably say, "This is a biopic. It isn't fictionalized and the director isn't trying to add in anything that isn't part of truth." I understand that. Regardless, there's nothing movie-goers could take into account other then the disturbingly soul-blotting violence and the extremely one-dimensional narrative. Let's say the director's choice to be respectful to these actual events didn't bother me -- still doesn't make up the fact that Killer Instinct's narrative is extremely uneven. On certain occasions, tension's boiling at an all-time high, and on other occasions, it becomes dreadfully dull, making me question why I wanted to watch the movie in the first place. If you've heard or read about the true story of Jacque Mesrine, you're not getting any additional insight in this true story if you watch this film. The only thing it may accentuate is the gravity of violence that Mesrine enacted.

Killer Instinct was a complete mess. Direction got increasingly bad, the narrative holds no grounds other then events recorded on a timeline, and the film gives no effort to immerse movie goers. Hey, Vincent Cassel's one beast actor, but even he couldn't lift this film to higher grounds. You can probably say, it was a bad move for him to be involved in this project; he trusted the bad instincts (sorry... horrible pun super intended). Killer Instinct boasts a dark tone with a riveting story, and at moments, you may be sitting at the edge of your seat, but by the end, you'll be wondering what the point of the film was and end up not caring to figure it out. This is one empty film.
Super Reviewer
September 13, 2011
This is part one of a two part epic about infamous French gangster Jacques Mesrine who was a real menace during the 1960s and 1970s. I had not heard of him or his exploits before I heard about the movie, but when I heard about the movie, I got interested, especially since it stars Vicnent Cassel who is becoming a guy I'm starting to really dig and get into.

This was split into two parts, similar to what was done with Kill Bill and Che, and, like those two, I wouldn't have minded seeing the whole thing all at once instead of having to see one part then wait a bit to see the other. Even though I'm not totally satisfied with how they concluded this part, it does definitely make me thirsty for more.

This portion of the story was based on Mesrine's own writings, so that's cool, and means that there's the chance of more honesty and realism in things, no matter how remarkable or unlikely they seem, such as the way he robs a bank then immediately runs across tthe street to rob another bank. You get some insight into who people are, and some development, but a lot of focus is placed on people doing stuff

That's okay though, because the performances make it all work, especially Cassel (who looks rather spiffy sporting various types of facial hair), Dupuis, and Depardieu. Cecile De France who seems almost too cool and sexy for her own good. Plus, even though the film is mostly people doing stuff, it's really fun and entertaining since that stuff usually consists of armed robbery, kidnapping, or escaping prison.

I know that before he did this director Jean-Francois Richet directed the remake of Assault on Precinct 13, so the man can do action and crime type stuff. I must say though that for whatever reason, whenever this type of movie isn't an American film, it somehow seems more sophisticated, classy, and artistically done. Not that there aren't exceptions to the rule (Mann, Scorsese, Tarantino, etc), but by and large foreign takes on crime cinema just seem to bring some respect that is often missing.

You should check this out. It's got some fine, charismatic performances, fun style, good technique, and some strong music. I can't wait to see part 2.
Super Reviewer
½ September 1, 2011
Mesrine Part I is undoubtedly the superior movie of the two because it comes from the writings of Mesrine himself. With his book as the main influence for this movie, it's easy to see why it's so interesting. It's not exactly glamorizing the gangster lifestyle and making the character out to be a secretly great person, but it shows a fair interpretation. A lot of the reason Mesrine is such a bizarre type of criminal is that he's just so nonchalant and straight-forward about who he is. This isn't someone who thinks he deserves acclaim and love, but not once does he ever apologize for who he is. Now a lot of why this kind of execution works is due to Vincent Cassel and his performance. It's undeniably amazing and gets to the essence of why anyone can and does sympathize with a larger than life gangster in the same vein as Scarface. His mannerisms and personality shifts are so interesting to watch. It's a character that could've been so overdone and blown out of proportion, but it's perfect. The story is so unbelievable half the time, what with the prison escapes, heists and just the general destructive attitude of Jacques Mesrine. While it might not follow a traditional narrative style, I think it's extremely easy to get into and enjoy. Visually, this movie is flawless as well. It's not hyper-edited and basically just lets the backdrop and characters shine through. Honestly, you can't ask for much more in a crime biopic. It gets everything right.
Super Reviewer
August 10, 2011
What a great entry into the compelling yet tired gangster genre. Cassell delivers an astounding performance as this multi-faceted larger than life figure and Richet more than capably walks a fine line of bringing this fascinating, albeit violent, life to the screen, without making it feel hagiographical. While I can understand the criticism that the film feels episodic, it is a biography, and isn't life just a series of episodes? I think the director does a fine job of making this film feel like one life, rather than a series of disparate events.
Overall, sharp directing, solid acting, and a great script, brings this film to life in a vibrant way.
Super Reviewer
½ August 25, 2010
I see someone likes early DePalma as much as I do.
Cassel is a hoot to boot!
Super Reviewer
½ September 11, 2010
Well made film, with some really great actors...but leave it to the French to make a crime thriller not so thrilling. I'm not sure what it is about French movies, but they sometimes just kind of drag. Another problem with the story is that it has a ragged and jumpy time line, and though not too hard to follow, seems to jump implausibly from one period of the characters life to another. But, on the whole, this was decent and I do plan to check out the rest of it (cuz it seems to come in parts).
Super Reviewer
½ March 9, 2011
The movie has more pros than cons and works great as a crime film. This gangster biopic is adapted into movie very finely and is surely worth a shot. It was guilty pleasure to watch this "Public Enemy #1" perform various crimes and managing to successfully escape from the hands of law. Needless to say that I'm eager to check out its sequel. Hope it won't be disappointing either.
Super Reviewer
½ October 26, 2010
The allure of the gangster lifestyle seems to be a constant source of entertainment for people (myself included). It's a genre that has turned out countless classics and with this recent French addition, director Jean-Francois Richet has a good go of including his film amongst the best.
Part one "Killer Instinct", covers the early career (1959 - '70) of outlaw Jacques Mesrine (Vincent Cassel), covering his military service in Algeria, apprenticeship with a Paris gang-lord (Gerard Depardieu), crime-spree partnership with soulmate Jeanne (Cecile De France) and escape from a tough Canadian prison.
Being only the first installment of this two-part, 4 hour crime flick. The word 'epic' may spring to mind. Strangely though, it never felt epic to me and I think this was mainly down to it not being about a criminal family but only one individual. However, it's no less effective and has more in common with "Scarface" in Mesrine's one man rise to power or notoriety and "Bonnie & Clyde" for his crime spree with a ladyfriend. What's demanded from it, is also the thing that holds it all together and that's a lead performance of power and charisma. This is where Vincent Cassel comes in. He's absolutely captivating. He commands every bit of the screen with a tour de force show. Being one of the finest actors around at present Cassel can now officially change his name to 'excel' for his portrayal of this dangerous career criminal. Excellent support also from a sadly underused but menacing Gerard Depardieu, who shows great presence and the only one that comes close to Cassel's powerhouse performance.
An exciting fast paced bio-pic that'll have you hooked right from the excellent split-frame opening scene. Worth checking out for Cassel alone.
Super Reviewer
½ May 1, 2010
Awful, awful, awful storyline. It's as if the screenwriter had highlighted the parts from the books he wanted to adapt, then rewrote it with very cheesy lines, and then forgot to connect everything together.

Can't understand why people could love this. Go watch The Prophet, instead.
Super Reviewer
May 7, 2009
One word - Impressive!!!!

Not only has it been a while since such a great gangster film has been released, but this one is so packed with content, you'll think you've been watching it a lot longer than the actual 96 mins for the first part.

This is without doubt Cassell's finest role to date and for me already being such a fan of this Actor, the performance totally blew me away.

Another pleasant surprise was the role played by Depardieu, who was almost unrecognisable in his role and played it rather convincingly.
Super Reviewer
½ June 23, 2009
standard gangster fare, but stylish and with some great performances, notably cassell in the lead role as the so-called french dillinger. he is simply magnetic. gets better in the second half with a thrilling prison break. this part is based on mesrine's autobiography, written in prison
Super Reviewer
January 18, 2010
When i started watching this two parter to France's most famous public enemy no 1 its was like a French version of goodfellas.But near half way if completely changes.What we have here is a violent and tuff look at the raise of this person.Vincent Cassel is excellent as the lead and being a ruthless and brutal look to mesrine.The feel and look of the movie is up there with any big budget Hollywood movie and sometime forget that its not.Highly recommend to anyone who like a good true story on crime in the vine of scorsese.
Super Reviewer
½ January 17, 2010
Energetic gangster biopic with some brutal action held together by an electric performance from Cassel.
Super Reviewer
September 9, 2010
Absorbing, at-times fascinating biopic / gangster movie that follows a lot of familiar story arcing, and yet the viewer is gravitated toward each bump and bullet spray of this film, mostly due to the pulsating, palpitating performance of Vincent Cassel as Jacques Mesrine. And since I don?t know jacques about this guy?s amazingly real life, the story unfolds grippingly for this moviegoer. The pacing is interesting; perhaps herky-jerky, but for me it keeps events moving quickly. The downside is this also keeps you at arms-length from getting inside any of the characters beyond Mesrine. Still, it ends both as a self-contained piece of entertainment and as a tantalizing setup for Part 2: Public Enemy No. 1.
Super Reviewer
½ September 7, 2010
"Mesrine: Killer Instinct" is a stylishly entertaining first half of an epic biopic of Jacques Mesrine(Vincent Cassel, with just the right amount of swagger), an infamous criminal badass. The film starts with what may conceivably be his last moments. It is ironic because this installment includes a lot of first times for him, especially the first time he kills, in Algeria, hestitatingly so, even if it is legal. The others, not so much. So, now that he has seen the horrors of Algeria, will Paris seem the same again?

Once out of the army, his father(Michel Duchaussoy) gets him an honest job but then Mesrine's pal Paul(Gilles Lellouche) comes calling, introducing him to mob boss Guido(Gerald Depardieu). Now, he has even less hope of settling down to lead a normal life. It is at this point that events start steamrolling towards the event the closes the installment wherein Mesrine crosses a line where there is no going back.(Now compare that to the first robbery he takes part in and see how much has changed.) However, even with circumstances working against him, it is impossible to consider Jacques Mesrine a tragic figure. If he is a victim of collateral damage during wartime, then he is not alone, as he has a similar effect on those around him.
Super Reviewer
½ June 20, 2011
This is one stone ice cold and brutal story of a man fresh out of the military "hell - bent" on not being a "wussy" or "pantsy" like his father was. Getting more fueled with rage after trying it out his father's way because of his wife's continuous pleadings to go straight...Mesrine looses all control when the job his father set him up with made the choice to fire him. Mesrine then goes on an all out crime spree that lands hi m in jail. Despite the abuse from the prison correction program...Mesrine goes all out to get what is his by any means at his disposal with the help of a childhood friend and a mobster. Surely this is one grimy fueled story of the most wanted man in the history of the French from France to Canada. See this it is notorious!
Super Reviewer
January 17, 2011
Since seeing him in Eastern Promises and others that have followed (Black Swan) I have been mesmerized by Vincent Cassel's performances and in this film even more so! With his Gallic snarl and animal magnetism he is the movie. Unfortunately the movie gets convoluted at times and proves to be too episodic...nevertheless Mesrine is a badass gangster film worth watching. (1-16-11)
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