MESRINE, the two-part, two-ticket-price movie that just garnered a César for its star Vincent Cassel (below, center) and director Jean-François Richet (who co-wrote the film with Abdel Raouf Dafri) begins with a series of split-screen views of a couple of chary characters apparently on the run. These are accompanied by Marcus Trumpp's music, composed to ratchet up suspense. Ratchet it does. And then pushes, and pumps, and ratchets some more. By the time the sequence ends (with what looks suspiciously like the climax of this entire four-hour movie), you may have realized, as did I, that instead of actually being suspenseful, this few minutes has succeeded only in working very hard to appear so. If you buy into the "suspense," however, then you'll probably buy the remainder of this super-violent, bloody, action-packed and tedious film. TrustMovies didn't buy, but he managed to rent (or maybe sublet) off and on, over the film's very long running time.
|For all Cassel's manic negative energy on display, this is nothing we've not seen before -- and often: from Hate through Brotherhood of the Wolf, Birthday Girl, The Reckoning, Eastern Promises and particularly Sheitan (now there's a film in which this guy is really scary!). By the end of the movie, while we're left with another instance of Cassel doing his thing, we're barely a step or two closer to understanding M. Mesrine. So it goes with the other characters on display. Take Cécile De France, shown above, for instance. If you recall her from films such as A Secret, The Singer, Avenue Montaigne or Russian Dolls, you may have trouble even recognizing her here. She gives a great one-or-two-note performance without providing us with much character detail at all. First she's hard as nails, then -- boom -- she's soft and sad. It's mostly the same with the other characters: Given only a few scenes or moments, the actors make the most of them but can't begin to probe or bring much subtlety to the goings-on.|
|And so events typical of the film biography march, as if in lockstep, before our eyes: entry into the criminal life, adoption by the big boss, a killing here, a killing there, imprisonment (complete with nasty guards and cruel warden), the prison break (there's one in Part I and Part II, each handled well), troubles on the home front with the little woman, a later reconciliation with a child, and on and on. It's not that this is so poorly done (it's serviceable and sometimes more than that) but we've seen it all rather often over the years. And nothing here, save the violence, is given much weight. Pasting a real-life character onto these events (along with a starry cast including Mathieu Amalric, Gérard Depardieu, Canada's Roy Dupuis (above), Elena Anaya, Michel Duchaussoy, Ludivine Sagnier and others) makes the film a bit more interesting, perhaps (Mesrine's foray into the Front de libération du Québec is particularly so) but it does little for the overall arc of the story -- or its meaning and importance. I would guess that France found the film fascinating, since all but its younger generation or two lived through this and should remember it well. For some of us, however, it's mostly the usual blood-and-guts.|
Note for completists: An earlier Mesrine film appeared 25 years ago, written and directed by André Génovès, and a French TV movie and documentary have popped up along the way. Senator Entertainment, for which I could find no proper link, has picked up the movie for distribution in the US. While this two-part film will not screen at the at the IFC Center, if you can manage to procure a ticket, you can see it at the Walter Reade Theater: Part One on Tuesday March 10, at 6:15 and Saturday, March 14, at 1:30; Part Two screens Wednesday, March 11, at 6 and Saturday, March 14, at 3:50.
The Apprentice, no surprise, has not yet been picked up for distribution in the US, but it will screen at the at the IFC Center on Monday, March 9 at 7; at the Walter Reade Theater, you can see it Wednesday, March 11, at 3:45 or Thursday, March 12, at 8:45.