Mesrine (2008)

Mesrine was at two-part film. I’m writing about it here as one piece of work. It’s widely available as BluRay or DVD in the two disc format. It’s also a masterpiece.

I think I remember Mark Kermode reviewing it at the time, and as I recall while the film is directed by Jean-François Richet who has some solid American action films on his CV, and is an obviously talented (from this film at least) director. Kermode felt that the actor playing the lead, the remarkable Vincent Cassel was actually directing the film through his totally uncompromising performance.

Jacques Mesrine was a notorious French gangster, he was France’s public enemy number one, and actually (as the film shows) committed crimes in various countries. He flirted with revolutionary politics and served in the army (and did various stints in prison).

It’s clear that Mesrine was a totally brutal force of nature. He was also brighter than the average gangster, and had a swagger, and flair for the dramatic.

The film features some great French actors and Cecile de France (one of the first blogposts I ever wrote on this website was pretty much a tribute to what a wonderful actress she is.)

Kermode’s point about the central performance almost directing a film is an apt one. As a script writer for hire and UK script consultant creating characters that performers can get their teeth into is something that should be encouraged, and the greatest thing about this film is Cassel’s performance, he seems hungry to eat and control the film the way Mesrine wanted to control his own destiny and do whatever the hell he liked.

I’d recommend watching the film over two-nights.  It’s still one of the best films of the last ten years. It was also interesting to see Cassel turn up in the last Bourne film as Treadstone killer out to kill Bourne – it was a very good performance from Cassel. But, if Treadstone had asked Mesrine to kill Bourne, Bourne would be deader than disco…

Matthew Cooper has been a script writer for hire for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer. He’s also a leading UK script consultant. You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb. You can get in touch with Matthew on or hire him on Peopleperhour