Mesrine: Killer Instinct, the first part of a two part crime biopic, defies the kind of pace and feel of most slower-burning gangster films. Spanning years, but not taking its time to do so, this enjoyable, if too breezy, film rests on the very capable shoulders of its lead performer.
Vincent Cassel, one of France's most talented modern actors, plays the real life audacious gangster, Jacques Mesrine, with an experience-fueled confidence, delving completely into the character's mindset to give a convincing and realistic portrayal of one of France's most famous men of crime. Cassel has flirted with Hollywood roles, from his entertaining portrayal of the Night Fox in the Ocean's sequels, to an underwritten role as a criminal alongside Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston in Derailed. But his role here sees him doing what he does best: becoming other people and making you completely buy into it.
The film skips along at a fast pace, exceptionally fast for the type of film it is. This is often to the film's detriment. For every time the film feels enjoyable for the brevity of its scenes and fast pacing, there is another when it becomes frustrating for the same reasons. The film's pace rarely allows you to care much for the characters (with the exception of Mesrine) or even able to understand why a certain thing has taken place. At one point in time, Mesrine is casually dating a woman, then suddenly he's married to her with a couple of kids and a third on the way, virtually without explanation or exploration. Frustrating and pleasing in equal measure.
It's worth putting up with the lack of character exploration and explanation of events in Mesrine: Killer Instinct if it means we get more purely enjoyable crime films like these. It's no crime classic, but certainly is an entertaining modern entry into the genre.