L’instinct de mort | Mesrine: Killer Instinct [2008]

L'instinct de mort-0013/10 | 7.May.13
L’instinct de mort | Mesrine: Killer Instinct

DIRECTOR: Jean-François Richet | WRITERS: Abdel Raouf Dafri, Jean-François Richet | CAST: Vincent Cassel, Cécile De France, Gérard Depardieu, Gilles Lellouche, Roy Dupuis, Elena Anaya, Florence Thomassin, Michel Duchaussoy, Myriam Boyer, Abdelhafid Metalsi | France

Ugh. That L’instinct de mort is Part One of a two-part film about the real life French career criminal Jacques Mesrine need not have compromised its viability as a stand-alone film, but it feels as if the first two hours of a longer film had been lopped off and released as is with no real point of view or even narrative arc of its own. After a stylishly shot and edited opening sequence showing Mesrine (Vincent Cassel) and an unidentified woman driving into a police ambush on the streets of Paris, the film travels back to 1959 and Algeria where Mesrine is one of a number of French soldiers brutalizing Algerian terror suspects; a superior officer orders Mesrine to shoot one of the suspects and he does, reluctantly. Jump forward to Mesrine’s demobilization back in France where his cipher of a father finds him a job, he’s laid off, and he drifts into organized criminal activity. But events just happen one after the other in an endless “and then this happened, then this, then this, then this” fashion. Mesrine marries and fathers children with a vacant-headed Spanish woman; he becomes associated with a crime boss played broadly by Gérard Depardieu; he joins up with a woman robber acted with cool chick glamour by Cécile De France, becoming a sort of latter day Bonnie and Clyde; he winds up in prison again and again. The end. All of the acting is perfunctory or one note at best, and Jean-François Richet’s directing is crude and like what you see in the worst of bad television cop shows but with unnecessarily explicit violence and gore, and at the end I found myself wondering why Mesrine was felt to be an interesting enough character to make a movie about. I did shudder with pleasurable horror at the accurate recreations of 1970s fashions, so that’s a point in its favor. I guess.

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