Metascore
71

Generally favorable reviews - based on 23 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 17 out of 23
  2. Negative: 0 out of 23
  1. 88
    The acting is macho understatement. Mesrine is a character who might have been played years ago by Gerard Depardieu, who appears here as Guido, a bullet-headed impresario of larceny.
  2. 75
    As biographical crime thrillers go, Killer Instinct is a worthy entry to the genre, although the incompleteness of the story makes it difficult to evaluate on its own. The movie needs to be seen in the context of a greater whole for it to be fully appreciated.
  3. The events may be accurate, but Mesrine is so episodic that it's slightly maddening to watch.
  4. The films never lose sight of Mesrine the man, a fascinating character in that he's brutal yet extremely intelligent, has a skewed but discernible conscience, and, under the right circumstances, can be warm and generous.
  5. There's enough action to keep us watching, but little incentive to return when the movie's second half - yep, another two hours - hits theaters next week.
  6. It makes for continuously riveting, visceral entertainment that evokes a Gallic "Scarface" without the drugs.
  7. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    75
    The enjoyment of the film comes from watching Mesrine's ambitions grow slowly but exponentially; the shock is in being reminded and re-reminded of his sadism.
  8. This is much more conventional cops and robbers stuff, leavened with a bit of sex and sequences of brutal, at times sadistic, violence. What elevates it above the norm is bravura acting by Vincent Cassel in the title role.
  9. The real-life career criminal Jacques Mesrine is seen in all his wild, scary, violent glory.
  10. So what is it? Primarily it's a showcase for Vincent Cassel, who dines out on the role and won a Cesar award (the Gallic Oscar) for his efforts.
  11. 70
    Comparisons with Michael Mann's recent Dillinger biopic "Public Enemies" are inevitable, and mostly flattering to this project: director Jean-Francois Richet and screenwriter Abdel Raouf Dafri take advantage of the additional screen time (about 100 minutes more than Mann had) to flesh out their protagonist, who fancies himself an honorable thief and even a left-wing revolutionary but ultimately turns out to be something much simpler: a man who loves his work.
  12. 83
    The film is big and sprawling and moves with fiery energy -- there's little or no exposition or explanation between scenes or episodes, yielding a breakneck pace.
  13. 63
    Mesrine's gentler side is explored, too, as he gets caught up with women portrayed by two of France's leading actresses, Ludivine Sagnier and Cecile de France.
  14. Reviewed by: Roger Moore
    Jan 19, 2011
    88
    Cassel's performance...the best reason to see this, one of the best French (In French with English subtitles) crime thrillers of the new millennium.
  15. Part One, at least, is a French "Bonnie and Clyde."
  16. This disappointing dramatization, mounted with generic blandness by Jean-Fran├žois Richet, makes no case for the man's larger significance, nor does any emotional digging at all. Such detachment was no doubt considered artistically shrewd-it's a big mistake.
  17. 70
    Mesrine was no more a movie star than John Dillinger was, but both men could dream, and Cassel catches the folly of such dreaming, with its blasts of thuggery and its rare flashes of style, as neatly as anyone since Warren Oates took the title role of "Dillinger," in 1973.
  18. 67
    Cassel is convincing and riveting as Mesrine, which helps balance out the film's problematic slick shallowness and disconnects.
  19. 50
    Richet proves maddeningly loath to edit his material, and his charismatic star, Vincent Cassel, does not delve deep into the character.
  20. Reviewed by: Kim Newman
    80
    Instantly gripping, with a powerhouse star performance, it'll make you want to speed through the weeks to get to part two.
  21. 55
    Mostly it's frustrating; the film is an episodic jumble that runs hot and cold not in some implied thematic synchronicity with its subject's character but as part of a misguided approach that assumes the audience will find whatever Mesrine does, in whatever order and with whatever emphasis, inherently fascinating.
  22. While Mesrine: Killer Instinct certainly deserves a place among memorable French gangster films, Richet never delivers a clear theme here, let alone a plot.
  23. Reviewed by: Jen Chaney
    50
    Much of it plays like an unintentional mash-up of the numerous wrong-side-of-the-law sagas that preceded it.
User Score
8.3

Universal acclaim- based on 19 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 4 out of 4
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 4
  3. Negative: 0 out of 4
  1. Aug 28, 2010
    7
    The lead actor is excellent, and he's just repugnant enough that you're not rooting for him like you'd typically root for the bad guy in aThe lead actor is excellent, and he's just repugnant enough that you're not rooting for him like you'd typically root for the bad guy in a movie like this. The supporting actors are uniformly outstanding. Even though I knew this is part one of two, it really ends rather abruptly - almost like they produced both parts to be seen back-to-back with a short intermission. I'll certainly see part 2, despite the fact that it's pretty clear how it will all turn out from the directors use of the uroboros. Full Review »
  2. Jul 7, 2012
    8
    It's a great little history lesson. The movie is certainly implausible except for the fact that it is all based quite closely on the real lifeIt's a great little history lesson. The movie is certainly implausible except for the fact that it is all based quite closely on the real life b#$tard. For all of his repugnance you still must watch to see how he pulls this all off and how it might all end. If there's an overarching persistent flaw it is the way the movie surveys his life and crimes and never once even tries to dig into some pithy look at motivation. Still, very entertaining. Full Review »
  3. Sep 27, 2011
    7
    Il y a une ambiance à l'américaine dans cette première partie de Mesrine. Cette dernière seIl y a une ambiance à l'américaine dans cette première partie de Mesrine. Cette dernière se montre assez noire, tendue et palpitante. Tout ce qui peut manquer à un film français en fin de compte! Et on peut dire que Mesrine - L'Instinct de Mort est une véritable surprise car il n'est pas un simple biopic pompeux mais bien un polar superbement mis en scène et interprété à la perfection (Vincent Cassel au sommet, mais n'oublions pas Gérard Depardieu, Cécile de France, Gilles Lellouche...). Dommage cependant que les scènes s'enchaînent à un rythme (trop) effréné, à cause d'un scénario qui abuse des ellipses et d'un montage quelque peu brouillon. De ce fait, on a l'impression de passer à côté de beaucoup de choses vécues par Mesrine. Mais pour qu'un film français soit enfin de cette envergure, on ne va pas cracher dessus! Full Review »