Mes­rine,

Pasatiempo - - Moving Images -

in a sports car across the Ari­zona desert, pur­sued by a fleet of po­lice ve­hi­cles.

There’s plenty of ac­tion: prison breaks, beat­ings, rob­beries, gun fights, and car chases. All of this is en­thu­si­as­ti­cally filmed with a re­fresh­ing lack of com­put­er­gen­er­ated im­agery, and it pays homage to all the great ac­tion scenes in clas­sic gang­ster movies made on both sides of the At­lantic — the work of Jean Luc-Go­dard, Jules Dassin, Wil­liam Fried­kin, and even Raoul Walsh comes to mind. The script, by Ab­del Raouf Dafri, is based on Mes­rine’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, pub­lished af­ter his death. Whether the book or the film is more fact than fic­tion isn’t re­ally the point. Richet and com­pany want to em­pha­size that gang­sters still ex­ude glam­our to those of us who have noth­ing else in our lives to cheer.

Mes­rine is played by Vin­cent Cas­sel, whose in­her­ent charm and grace lend a sense of ro­mance to the char­ac­ter. But he knows how to play the rep­tile, too. When he ut­ters the words “I love you” to his wife, it sounds like a can­ni­bal say­ing, “You look de­li­cious!” to a po­ten­tial hu­man meal. It’s a strong, steady portrayal, but there’s not quite enough meat in the script for Cas­sel to chew. Most of the other char­ac­ters don’t stick around long enough for the ac­tors to make mem­o­rable turns out of them, though Gérard Depar­dieu is strik­ing as Mes­rine’s cold­hearted men­tor.

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