L’ennemi public no 1 | Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1
DIRECTOR: Jean-François Richet | WRITERS: Abdel Raouf Dafri, Jean-François Richet | CAST: Vincent Cassel, Mathieu Amalric, Ludivine Sagnier, Samuel Le Bihan, Anne Consigny, Olivier Gourmet, Gérard Lanvin, Georges Wilson, Michel Duchaussoy, Myriam Boyer, Fanny Sidney, Alain Fromager, Laure Marsac | France
Part Two of Jean-François Richet’s film bio of career criminal Jacques Mesrine, L’ennemi public no 1 picks up where L’instinct de mort ended and takes the story through to the police ambush that opened Part One. Richet’s directing and Cassel’s acting are sharper and more focused than in the first film, perhaps because Mesrine’s growing habit of playing to the media with deliberate provocations and the assumption of a bizarre anarcho-terrorist persona have given them more interesting material to work with. That is not to say that Richet’s screenplay deepens, since it continues to be a string of “and then and then and then” incidents, but the incidents themselves are more entertaining. Ludivine Sagnier, who played the unidentified moll in the opening sequence in L’instinct de mort, is resolutely one note as Mesrine’s dim-witted, avaricious, and always horny new girlfriend. Vincent Cassel’s Mesrine is a more interesting character in this film and he rises to the occasion; his Mesrine is not very bright, a grandstanding thug who enjoys taunting those who try to stop him. Much better is Mathieu Amalric as the wary and shrewd convict who busts out of a high security prison with Mesrine and forms an uneasy partnership with him on the outside. Gratuitous violence and gore are kept to a minimum — no repeated closeups of someone being stabbed in the stomach here — although there’s plenty of blood. After watching four hours of the Mesrine saga I’m left wondering why this story needed to be told this way and at such length. I can only imagine that people who remember the actual case as it unfolded in the media at the time see the movies through that filter, filling in the screenplay’s gaping holes and supplying the characters with a charisma that is sorely lacking here.