"Public Enemy No. 1 - Part 1 & 2" (2009)

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"Public Enemy No. 1 - Part 1 & 2" (2009)

Postby GoogaMooga » 14 Apr 2024, 22:11

***PUBLIC ENEMY NO. 1 - PART 1 & 2***

This Vincent Cassel vehicle is a recent discovery of mine. It was France's big push into the gangster genre in 2009. Vincent Cassel is devilishly good as Jacques Mesrine, Europe's most notorious gangster in the terror-jittery 1970s. He has a winning smile, seductive and convincing, but he can also turn on a dime and be absolutely merciless.

I don't really think the director, Jean-Francois Richet, is angling for sympathy here, the film does take a moral stand and is clear about it. But he does often show the Vincent Cassel character, Jacques Mesrine, in a very favorable light, almost comical. And gives him plenty of time to justify his totally antisocial behavior, however ridiculous or delusional it may seem.

Mesrine is a man of skewed principles, but he gradually turns into a one man revolutionary who will overthrow the system through a series of bank robberies, and then... yes, and then what? We know he won't change diddley squat. But people will be hurt, people will suffer and die, and our gangster dude will meet his own early death in a shower of bullets.

Live by the gun, die by the gun. Just so you can be flush with money and get your lady some glittery jewelry, and a fancy BMW for yourself? Aways looking over your shoulder, constantly on the move, or planning the next job? No thanks. This part Richet manages to convey in unequivocal terms. The futility, the absurdity, the brutality of it all.

What the film perhaps lacks is a more formalized epic sweep, more mythos, more of that whole "famiglia" feeling of connectedness, with all its rituals. Jacques Mesrine is just a lone nutter let loose in a world of deceit and savagery, a man who can't control his instincs.

And that is basically what we get out of this film. For the real deal, Americans and Italians do it far better. The French are much more about the so-called "policiers", those rigorous crime dramas from Jean-Pierre Melville et al. And perhaps that is just as well. So shall it be!
"When the desert comes, people will be sad; just as Cannery Row was sad when all the pilchards were caught and canned and eaten." - John Steinbeck

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