4 stars (out of 5)
By R. Kurt Osenlund
“All films are part fiction,” disclaims a pre-credit scroll at the start of “Mesrine,” director Jean-François Richet's epic French-language biopic. “No film can recreate all the complexity of a human life,” it continues. Fair enough. But if the real Jacques Mesrine, the John Dillinger of France, did even a fraction of what actor Vincent Cassel does in this two-part saga about the gangster's crime spree in the '60s and '70s, it'd still make one hell of a motion picture experience, exciting and quite complex indeed.
Now playing at arthouse venues, parts one (“Mesrine: Killer Instinct”) and two (“Mesrine: Public Enemy #1”) were both released in France in 2008, where they were nominated for multiple César Awards and won three (Best Actor, Best Director and Best Sound). It would be easy to say the first part shows the rise of Mesrine and the second part shows the fall, but only the former would be true, as the man we see never really falls; he's just finally knocked down. Like Dillinger, Mesrine didn't suffer some devastating downward spiral, and given the chance, he would have surely kept on living the felonious life, smiling all the way.