Mesrine was no more a movie star than John Dillinger was, but both men could dream, and Cassel catches the folly of such dreaming, with its blasts of thuggery and its rare flashes of style, as neatly as anyone since Warren Oates took the title role of "Dillinger," in 1973.
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As biographical crime thrillers go, Killer Instinct is a worthy entry to the genre, although the incompleteness of the story makes it difficult to evaluate on its own. The movie needs to be seen in the context of a greater whole for it to be fully appreciated.
While Mesrine: Killer Instinct certainly deserves a place among memorable French gangster films, Richet never delivers a clear theme here, let alone a plot.
This disappointing dramatization, mounted with generic blandness by Jean-François Richet, makes no case for the man's larger significance, nor does any emotional digging at all. Such detachment was no doubt considered artistically shrewd-it's a big mistake.
Instantly gripping, with a powerhouse star performance, it'll make you want to speed through the weeks to get to part two.
Part One, at least, is a French "Bonnie and Clyde."
Mostly it's frustrating; the film is an episodic jumble that runs hot and cold not in some implied thematic synchronicity with its subject's character but as part of a misguided approach that assumes the audience will find whatever Mesrine does, in whatever order and with whatever emphasis, inherently fascinating.
Richet proves maddeningly loath to edit his material, and his charismatic star, Vincent Cassel, does not delve deep into the character.
The events may be accurate, but Mesrine is so episodic that it's slightly maddening to watch.
The acting is macho understatement. Mesrine is a character who might have been played years ago by Gerard Depardieu, who appears here as Guido, a bullet-headed impresario of larceny.