Socialist Worker

Mesrine: Killer Instinct: Random acts of violence—but where did the plot go?

by Beatrice Leal and Emma Lightfoot
Issue No. 2164

This film tells the story of the first half of Jacques Mesrine’s career as a gangster. However it runs into problems for a couple of reasons. Firstly, lack of plot.

The film is based on Mesrine’s autobiography, but the director seems to have dropped most of the actual story in order to get to the random acts of violence more quickly.

So you’re left with no idea of his motivations, or even what’s going on at times.

It uses the same clichés as other gangster films—the poker games in smoky rooms, a supporting cast of prostitutes, and the frequent references to respect (usually made by Mesrine to people he is attacking).

The main problem though is that Mesrine is so unpleasant you can’t get too excited about what’s going to happen to him.

He is the only character you see much of, since his parents, wife, and finally even his fellow bank-robber girlfriend decide to steer clear of him and drop in and out of the plot.

Perhaps the film means to give the impression that Mesrine becomes brutalised because of things in his life—such as being ordered to participate in torturing prisoners during the Algerian war of independence.

But the impression it leaves you with is of someone who was a thug all along, which doesn’t sit well with the vaguely glamorous Hollywood-style treatment of his life.

If you like generic gangster films with lots of violence, you’ll like this (it’s even subtitled so it looks a bit cooler). Otherwise, don’t bother.

Mesrine: Killer Instinct

Directed by Jean-François Richet

In cinemas Friday

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Article information

Tue 11 Aug 2009, 18:46 BST
Issue No. 2164
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