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Film / Mesrine

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Mesrine is a 2008 French biopic/crime thriller film diptych directed by Jean-François Richet. Its two parts are titled L'instinct de Mort (Killer Instinct) and L'Ennemi public numéro 1 (Public enemy Number 1). Both films were released one month apart.

It chronicles the life of French criminal Jacques Mesrine (played by Vincent Cassel), from his days as a crime syndicate underling to the robberies, kidnappings and murders he committed, which made national headlines in The '70s.

This film diptych provides examples of:

  • The '60s: L'instinct de Mort takes place mostly in this decade.
  • The '70s: L'Ennemi public numéro 1 takes place in this decade, ending with Mesrine's death in November 1979.
  • The Alcatraz: The Saint-Vincent-de-Paul high security prison in Québec, Canada, where Mesrine is put and tortured after his kidnapping scheme failed. He and his new friend Roger manages to break out, but then plan to go back to break more people out. That plan fails and Roger gets killed.
  • Asshole Victim: When Mesrine tortures Jacques Tillier, you are not supposed to feel too sorry for him after he talks positively about Maurice Papon (a former Vichy collaborationist during World War II who would have a much publicized trial in the late 1990s), although this has not much basis on what Tillier actually expressed.
  • Ax-Crazy: Mesrine becomes increasingly paranoid and violent as the story goes.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: He is not actually crucified (and certainly not a hero), but posters of the second movie showed a dead Mesrine, with his beard, slightly long hair, bowing his head and dribbling in blood, which made him look eerily like a crucified Jesus (also considering that the films were made a mere 3-4 years after The Passion of the Christ). While he was an infamous criminal, his controversial killing by the police made him a martyr of some sort for many.
  • The Driver: Mesrine's first job in the criminal underworld is to drive crime boss Guido around. And do some killings for him as well.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Mesrine is going to be shot dead by the police in an ambush.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Mesrine goes from being a lowly man and pawn of the criminal underworld to one of the most infamous French criminals of the 20th century.
  • How We Got Here: The movie begins with Mesrine's ambush by the police at the Porte de Clignancourt in Paris, just as he is about to be shot.
  • It Gets Easier: Mesrine commits his first murder (that of Ahmed the pimp) during his mafia driver days, and it gets easier and easier for him to kill without remorse from that point on.
  • Just Like Robin Hood: Mesrine likes to portray himself so. Except he keeps it all to himself.
  • No Kill like Overkill: How Mesrine ends up killed by the police. He is shot en masse repeatedly by the police, and when they reach his corpse, it is being shot at again just in case.
  • Outlaw Couple: Mesrine goes on a crime spree with his mistress Jeanne Schneider (played by Cécile de France) for a while.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Mesrine's first mafia boss Guido (Gérard Depardieu) is racist towards Arabs and North Africans, as Ahmed the pimp quickly finds out before getting killed.
  • Pronouncing My Name for You: Everyone pronounces Mesrine's name "Mess-reen", and Mesrine himself has to correct them, saying the "s" is silent, and that you pronounce it "May-reen".
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: The poster of Killer Instinct has Vincent Cassel pointing his gun at the viewer.
  • Villain Protagonist: Par for the course, being a biopic about an infamous criminal.