Generally favorable reviews - based on 18 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 15 out of 18
  2. Negative: 0 out of 18
Watch On
  1. 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.
  2. Reviewed by: Mark Jenkins
    Any film about a flashy criminal threatens to glamorize its protagonist, but both Mesrine episodes are careful to detail the many goofs made by the crook and his accomplices.
  3. The story is deepened with a distinctively European political subtext as the increasingly grandiose Mesrine engages in a running dialogue with various characters about the differences between gangsters and revolutionaries.
  4. 88
    In most movies, we know the police bullets will never find their target. With Mesrine, (1) sometimes they do, and (2) in real life, he survived an incredible 20 years with the police firing at him at least annually.
  5. 83
    Public Enemy openly raises the question of why officers of the law hated Mesrine so much that they were willing to turn his death into a block party.
  6. Reviewed by: Kim Newman
    An instant gangster classic.
  7. Reviewed by: Roger Moore
    Jan 19, 2011
    The lack of dramatic tension that knowing the ending before you being creates isn't a huge drawback.
  8. 75
    Cassel, who won a Cesar (France's equivalent to the Oscar) for his performance, invests the character with a grounding of humanity and honor that imply there are certain lines even Mesrine would never cross.
  9. 75
    Although Killer Instinct is the better of the two parts, Public Enemy No. 1 is a worthy continuation, providing closure to a tale that was interrupted just as things were getting really interesting.
  10. Deftly filmed and directed by Jean-Fran├žois Richet.
  11. Director Jean-Francois Richet shows a career in crime with pulse-pounding moments of pure cinema, then lets you decide what to make of this homicidal sociopath.
  12. 70
    Performs the unlikely trick of being both taut and plotless.
  13. 70
    Vincent Cassel sets a new standard for Gallic cool as the title character.
  14. 65
    The main and most enjoyable difference between the second installment and the first is the greater opportunity the latter provides Cassel to sketch some dimension into the coded mythologizing of his character.
  15. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    By the end, Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 has turned nearly as flabby as its aging antihero.
  16. Simply skip the first part entirely: "Killer Instinct" bulges with a disconnected jumble of nightclub attacks and fence-clipping escapes you've seen better elsewhere. Yet a tide change happens with the superior Public Enemy No. 1, which takes the subject's raging ego as its cue.
  17. 50
    Mesrine's promised end in November 1979 arrives as history recorded it, but, by that time, you're hoping the next vogue in biopics is the short film.
  18. The second film, in particular, grows tediously episodic, and the exploits become a blur. What never blurs is Mr. Cassel's presence. We're told that he bulked up for the part-though Mesrine was many things, lithe wasn't one of them-but it's his phenomenal zest for his checkered character that fills the screen.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 27 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 2
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 2
  3. Negative: 0 out of 2
  1. Jan 24, 2013
    The true story of one of Europe's most infamous and charismatic criminals, Jacques Mesrine (Vincent Cassel). The first first film is based onThe true story of one of Europe's most infamous and charismatic criminals, Jacques Mesrine (Vincent Cassel). The first first film is based on his autobiographic novel, documenting and projecting himself as brutal man who shot dead 39 victims during his 20-year run as a bank robber and kidnapper. That total doesn't include the prisoners, possibly dozens, executed point blank after they'd been tortured during France's war against Algeria. Mesrine escaped from two high-security prisons, kidnapped a millionaire, broke back into one of the prisons in an attempt to free his friends and went on the lam in Quebec, Arizona and Florida. He justifies his brutal rampage as acts of revolution against the state. While officers were participating in a continuous on-going manhunt, he granted exclusive interviews and wrote tender love poems to his lawyer. And yes, this is a true story.
    Vincent Cassel in his role as Mesrine is electrifying, and what keeps this so engaging throughout both of the films. He doesn't give Mesrine great depth because he is a psychopath, but he holds a commanding presence. He is brutal, and inscrutable--like a wild animal who kills for survival. He walks into banks as a celebrity, making guest appearances. In contrast to another famous outlaw, Dillinger, tried to stay out of shooting situations, and Mesrine seemed addicted to danger. Women were inexplicably willing to commit themselves to him. One of a kind gangster and playboy, who cherished his Public Enemy #1 persona, which ultimately leads to his inevitable demise. Both of these films are well done, and won Cesars for best director (Jean-Francois Richet) and best actor (Vincent Cassel). They have an impact recalling the days when gangster movies were grounded in reality, gritty and raw. The first film is easily the better of the two, but still a fantastic crime drama and highly recommended.
    Full Review »
  2. Sep 8, 2010
    It's clearly a good movie, and the lead actor continues to impress, but the second half of this double feature just felt a little samey to meIt's clearly a good movie, and the lead actor continues to impress, but the second half of this double feature just felt a little samey to me and my crime partner. I appreciated the elongation of the uroboros, however. The director didn't take the brief way out, and it paid off. But when you're looking at your watch as often as I did, it's not going to crack my list of those movies to be considered for the year's ten best. Full Review »