Picking up some five years after the close of Killer Instinct, this film’s significant other released just a few weeks ago in the UK, we’re now into the final furlong of Mesrine’s (Vincent Cassel) life, a period which will see him rise through the ranks of the French underworld to become, perhaps unsurprisingly, Public Enemy Number One.
Cassel is still on knock-out form as Jacques Mesrine, the confidence and bravado which powered him through the first film still present-and-correct as he continues to find himself in and out of French jail cells.
While the first film focused on Mesrine’s change of status from petty criminal to gangster, part two sees him become more politically minded, aligning himself with the wrong people in the shape of the PLO.
This time, instead of the hefty presence of Gérard Depardieu in Killer Instinct, Cassel is teamed up with another cult Gallic actor in the shape of the irrepressible Mathieu Amalric, seemingly contractually obliged to pop-up in every other film coming from across the Channel.
What do you prefer in your typical action film: style or substance? Usually there’s no debate, flashy visuals and a plot that has been surgically removed at development stage the result of a multi-million dollar budget and the need to appease the 14-25 year old demographics.
Occasionally we’re treated with more respect, films like the Bourne trilogy finding a balance between brains and brawn that makes viewers and critics sit up and take notice again, at least until something like Quantum of Solace pops its head over the parapet and is met with a collective groan.
Thankfully style, substance, brains and a healthy dose of brawn flow through the veins of new thriller Mesrine: Killer Instinct, the first of a two-part biopic of French crime legend and one-time folk hero Jacques Mesrine (Vincent Cassel).
Although its opening scene may be set in the 1970s, the first few minutes recall a film set a decade earlier, as a clever use of split screen evoking memories of Steve McQueen’s classic Bullitt (1968). Cassel is given a classy entrance from director Jean-François Richet, the camera lingering long on his every move.