F.I.L.M. of the Week (January 7, 2016)

7 01 2016

Mesrine Killer InstinctIt’s common to attribute all the attributes of high-octane, adrenaline-pumping cinema to the “Hollywood” style, as if big studios are the only entities capable of producing great action thrillers. But great classical genre films can came from anywhere in the world. Case in point: the French crime saga “Mesrine,” broken up into “Killer Instinct” (part 1) and “Public Enemy #1” (part 2).

These films may not rise to the standard of high art that normally defines my “F.I.L.M. of the Week” column, but I think it’s important to spotlight the many varieties of international cinema. Believe it or not, France has more to offer than austere Godard works or quirky Ozon films. They have people like Jean-François Richet, director of the “Mesrine” films, too! This is about as slick and thrilling as entertainment comes.

The movie makes a great showcase for Vincent Cassel, who stars as titular gangster Jacques Mesrine. After becoming disillusioned by France’s loss in the Algerian War, the ex-soldier enters the world of organized crime and quickly becomes a Pacino-like figure on the international circuit. Compared to some other recent mob movies (COUGH, “Black Mass“), Mesrine is always captivating to observe. He’s a man defined by his confidence, which earns him great success until it becomes the hubris that leads to his ruin.

When Cassel acts in English-language movies, he struggles to shed his thick French accent. That is not a knock against him, and it even served him well in “Black Swan.” But, often times, the cadences distract from the dialogue because it is so pronounced. In “Mesrine,” speaking in his native language, Cassel seems more comfortable and relaxed to act to his full capability. He sure does own the screen here.



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