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.