Mesrine: Killer Instinct (L'instinct de mort)


Mesrine: Killer Instinct (L'instinct de mort)

Critics Consensus

It's undeniably uneven, but Vincent Cassel's electrifying performance makes Mesrine: Killer Instinct a gangster biopic worth seeking out.



Total Count: 70


Audience Score

User Ratings: 20,462
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Mesrine: Killer Instinct (L'instinct de mort) Photos

Movie Info

This tough and gritty French-language crime drama represents the premier installment in a two-part series of features on the life and doings of notorious Gallic hood Jacques Mesrine (1936-1979). Mesrine is played, in both installments, by actor Vincent Cassel, who reportedly underwent massive weight gain and weight loss to convincingly portray the volatile Mesrine at various periods of his life. Director Jean-François Richet begins in 1979, with Mesrine's uncommonly violent death, whereby he and a beautiful young woman are suddenly (and fatally) ambushed by Parisian police not far from Mesrine's place of birth. Richet then flashes back to the Franco-Algerian War of the late '50s and a brutal interrogation undergone by Mesrine. Following a military discharge, Mesrine returns to his parents' suburb of Clichy, where his dad has arranged a pathetic job for him in a lace-making factory. Never one to take humiliation lying down, Jacques perceives burglary, larceny, and racketeering as much-superior options and decides to pursue a life of crime via a "business partnership" with childhood buddy Paul (Gilles Lellouche), who works for mobster Guido (Gérard Depardieu). As the years pass, Jacques works his way up through the ranks of the underworld; via Paul, he also meets and falls hard for two women: Pigalle streetwalker Sarah (Florence Thomassin), and Sofia (Elena Anaya), a beautiful Spanish woman with whom he cohabitates after doing time in a French prison. Following a brief and unsuccessful attempt to "go straight," Jacques reconnects with Guido, then finds it necessary to escape from France to Canada with his new mistress, Jeanne (Cécile De France). Unfortunately, another prison sentence is waiting for him there, replete with brutal solitary confinement, but the possibility of a daring escape beckons. The second half of the Mesrine saga, entitled Mesrine: L'Énnemi Public No. 1 for French release, followed immediately after and picks up where this installment wraps.

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Vincent Cassel
as Jacques Mesrine
Cécile De France
as Jeanne Schneider
Roy Dupuis
as Jean-Paul Mercier
Michel Duchaussoy
as Mesrine's Father
Myriam Boyer
as Mesrine's Mother
Ludivine Sagnier
as Sylvia Jeanjacquot
Gérard Lanvin
as Charlie Bauer
Samuel Le Bihan
as Michel Ardouin
Olivier Gourmet
as Commissioner Broussard
Georges Wilson
as The Billionaire
Anne Consigny
as Mesrine's Lawyer
Laure Marsac
as Interviewer
Alain Fromager
as Journalist
Mathieu Amalric
as François Besse
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News & Interviews for Mesrine: Killer Instinct (L'instinct de mort)

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

All Critics (70) | Top Critics (25) | Fresh (57) | Rotten (13)

  • Four hours of French gangsters may not sound like a cinematic joy, but with Euro-star Vincent Cassel in the lead role, the movie is utterly hypnotic.

    Aug 12, 2011 | Rating: 4.5/5 | Full Review…
  • The effect of Richet's hyperventilating filmmaking is akin to that of an extended-play trailer.

    Jan 21, 2011

    Robert Koehler

    Top Critic
  • It captures the rush of crime as a way of life for a man who did and took whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, simply because he could take it.

    Oct 7, 2010 | Rating: 3/4
  • Cassel is a gifted actor, but he doesn't have enough to grab on to. Read more:

    Aug 27, 2010 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Cassel, who took the best actor award at France's equivalent of the Oscars for this role, is compulsively watchable.

    Aug 27, 2010 | Rating: 4.5/5
  • Much of it plays like an unintentional mash-up of the numerous wrong-side-of-the-law sagas that preceded it.

    Aug 27, 2010 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…

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

  • Oct 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.
    Alex r Super Reviewer
  • Oct 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.
    xGary X Super Reviewer
  • Aug 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.
    Albert K Super Reviewer
  • Jan 20, 2012
    A great gangster thriller that is made even better by the fact that you know it's based on a true story. Mesrine is outrageous and gets away with ridiculous things during the film (the prison break and return is incredibly tense) and if he commits crimes that are repelent you still can't help but like the guy. Part of this is due to the fact that he actually seems to have a code that he follows but mostly it is down to Cassel's magnetic performance. I'm looking forward to seeing the 2nd part soon.
    David S Super Reviewer

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