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Mesrine: Killer Instinct

8/10

Stars: Vincent Cassel, Cecile de France, Gerard Depardieu, Elena Anaya, Roy Dupuis, Ludivine Sagnier, Gilles Lellouche

Director: Jean-Fran├žois Richet

A hard-nosed and in many ways old-fashioned French gangster film about the country's most notorious criminal, who became Public Enemy Number One both in Canada and his native land.

Cassel is entirely convincing as Jacques Mesrine, who learns killing as a way of life as a French soldier in late Fifties' Algeria, and soon becomes involved with the underworld (led by Depardieu) on his return to civilian life.

Becoming enamoured of innocent Spanish girl Sofia (Anaya), Mesrine gets her pregnant and marries her. Jailed for his participation in an ill-prepared bank raid, he goes straight for a while, but, after being made redundant, goes back to robbing banks and other crimes, attacking Sofia when she tries to stop him.

Dumping his three children on his parents (Myriam Boyer, Michel Duchaussoy), he hooks up with devil-may-care Jeanne (de France). In Canada, they become known as a latter-day Bonnie and Clyde before a scam involving a millionaire goes awry and they are both jailed. Then comes an escape and a new reign of Mesrine terror.

Inevitably something of a potted version of this Napoleon of crime, even with Part 2 to come, the film has some big jumps in its narrative (suggesting cuts), but is still well made in every department, and provides fast-moving, hard-hitting fare for fans of the genre.

David Quinlan

France/Canada/Italy 2008. UK Distributor: Momentum. Duboicolor/Technicolor.
107 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 01 Aug 2009