What defines a good person? I'm not sure. In fact, I'm probably the last person you should ask, but I do know that Jacques Mesrine, the notorious French gangster whose specialty was in executing bank robberies (usually peppered with a bit of assault and murder) is not quite the best candidate for humanitarian. But then, that's what makes him such an interesting character to watch come to life onscreen. The first film in the dyad about the life of Mesrine is entitled Mesrine: Killer Instinct or, if you're French (or want to be, like me), Mesrine: L'instinct de Mort. With the artful combination of Abdel Raouf Dafri's writing and Jean-François Richet's stylized directing, Mesrine actually transforms into a character we want to see evade the law, who we can forgive for pointing a gun in his wife's mouth in front of his son.
Rather than addressing Mesrine's brief period of normalcy before joining the French army while the Algerian War was going on, giving him a taste for what it felt like to kill, Dafri chose to commence the film in 1959 when he was just getting out of the army. This leaves out the subject of his first marriage to Lydia De Zouza in 1955, a union that didn't last for more than a year. I suppose I can't blame Dafri for leaving some of Mesrine's women out of the story; there were, after all, a litany of them. But in leaving out this piece of information, it makes less sense why Mesrine would have a predilection for living a life of crime. Had there been a brief scene of him being miserable with the conventional beforehand, it would be more understandable why he would jump at the chance to work for Guido (played by Gerard Depardieu, who will never die and will somehow always crop up in every French movie in existence), a major player in the crime underworld of France.
Once he gets involved, it becomes easy to see why he would find the life of a gangster so alluring: Free money, no specific work schedule, prostitutes who like him so much they don't charge, and access to a gun. But there is a theory--and don't ask me what it's called because I don't know (I might just be fabricating it that's why)--that once you get away with something, you'll only keep escalating until you get caught. This is most definitely the Mesrine's affliction. After marrying a Spanish woman (named Sofia in the movie), Mesrine has two children with her, yet this does not slow him down or make him think twice about returning to the seductiveness of delinquency.
His second wife ultimately leaves him (and why wouldn't she? This is the one who got a gun pointed in her mouth), allowing Mesrine to fully lavish in his depravity. On one particular spree, he meets a woman named Jeanne (Cécile De France) who is just as game as he is to wreak havoc, inspiring them to knock off a casino together. This, unfortunately, does not go unnoticed, and the owner's minions unsuccessfully try to take a hit out on Mesrine, who is merely shot in the shoulder, but otherwise unscathed. In the wake of the attempt on Mesrine's life, Guido encourages him to leave France with Jeanne until the incident is forgotten.
At this point, you might start to comprehend the need for a follow-up to Mesrine: Killer Instinct, called Mesrine: Public Enemy #1. The story is just too epic to conclude in one film. Fuck that Scott Pilgrim shit about an epic of epic epicness. This ribald tale of violence, evasion of authority, and transcontinental mayhem far surpasses any "action" movies of the past year. And even though one of the best lines is already delivered in the first installment, "Nobody kills me until I say so," one is left with the sense that Mesrine (who Vincent Cassel is, let's just say it, way too sexy to play) has quite a few more tricks up his bullet-riddled sleeve.