Vincent Cassel continues his role as Jacques Mesrine, a French gangster with a large public following and a bit of an ego to match. Had social media existed back in the 1960s and ‘70s, he would have been even bigger. As it was, he was almost a Robin Hood figure, and this film details more of his rise and unceremonious decline.
The first film had its faults, primarily being that viewers were left in the dark when it came to what made Mesrine turn to crime. That is answered here, but the reason may leave some people cold. It is realistic, however, and it is pure Mesrine. That alone makes this film better than the first one, and that isn’t the only thing that sets it apart.
Where the first film had Mesrine slowly becoming the gangster he is known for, this one shows a man who wants more and who is slowly becoming unhinged by his aspirations and the public’s perception of him. He wants a revolution, but at the same time he attacks the press that helped put him in the limelight. Before that happens, however, he has a daring escape from a courtroom and a wonderful run-in with the police. His downfall was shown in the first film, but when it arrives here it is as surprising as it is anticlimactic. That is actually not a negative in this case as it simply adds to the film’s realism.
The two films combined serve to make a powerful epic that rates amongst the best crime films ever made. It is too early to tell if it will be considered a “classic,” but it seems like this is a shoe-in to that club. It is a foreign film, but don’t let that deter you. Fans of crime cinema simply must see it.