Sean's Review of Mesrine: Killer Instinct (L'instinct de mort)
This is absolutely breathtaking. The film had me immediately when it opened with white text on a black screen which stated that no film can tell the true story of a man's life with 100% accuracy throughout. All films are to some extent fictional, to each his own. What followed that text was a visceral experience that had me totally gripped from beginning to end. I've seen it referred to as "the French Scarface." That is actually doing the movie a severe disservice, especially since Jacques Mesrine makes Tony Montana look like a little pansy boy throwing a temper-tantrum. Vincent Cassel gives a towering performance in the lead role, subtle and quiet, but absolutely believable as a total badass. This character engages is some of the most insanely crazy behavior I've ever seen in a serious gangster movie. Some of the scenes are so ludicrous, I have to believe they are based in reality. The character is so massive, it is awe inspiring that the director is able to keep up. I didn't see Jean-Francois Richet's remake of Assault on Precinct 13, and apparently I'm not missing much. His work here is absolutely stellar. The camera floats through the scenes with the same grace as in the best Scorsese films, and Richet knows how to work the frame to its fullest effect. I could go ahead and list some of the great set pieces and moments, but there would really be no reason to do so. Just over a week earlier, I thoroughly enjoyed The Town, which was a solid movie that featured one standout scene of brilliant tension. Mesrine features at least six such scenes. Lets just say that it features the best prison break I've had the pleasure of witnessing in a theater all year, and I think you know what other movie featured a prison break this year.
The gangster genre is certainly not lacking in entries, and this one isn't particularly original, but it is so brilliantly crafted that it was never an issue. If Public Enemies had been good, it may have resembled this film. I was tempted to sit in the theater and watch the second film right then and there, but decided to bask in the glory of this one for a while. Besides, if the second one is anywhere near as good as this one, I may as well spread that joy over a couple of days. It's being confined to a limited release in small art house theaters, but it deserves to be seen by everyone everywhere.