Public Enemy #1 (L'ennemi public n°1) (2008)

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Released 9-Mar-2010

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Crime Theatrical Trailer-Part 1
Theatrical Trailer-Part 2
Trailer-Madman Propaganda
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 236:38 (Case: 246)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Jean-François Richet
La Petite Reine
Madman Entertainment
Starring Vincent Cassel
Cecile De France
Ludivine Sagnier
Mathieu Amalric
Gérard Lanvin
Gerard Depardieu
Samuel Le Bihan
Olivier Gourmet
Michel Duchaussoy
Myriam Boyer
Anne Consigny
Georges Wilson
Alain Fromager
Case Amaray-Transparent-Dual
RPI $39.95 Music Marco Beltrami
Marcus Trumpp

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Unknown French Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

“No film can faithfully reproduce the complexity of a human life. To each his point of view”

     When Jacques Mesrine (Vincent Cassel) leaves the French army in 1959 after serving in Algeria, his friend Paul (Giles Lellouche) introduces him to gang boss Guido (Gerard Depardieu) and a life of crime, starting with housebreaking and moving on to murder and bank robbery. On holiday in Spain he falls in love with Sofia, marries and has children. In 1962 Mesrine is caught and jailed after a bungled bank robbery. Released, he gets a job and tries to go straight, but when he is made redundant he returns to Guido and crime, causing a violent fight with Sofia and the break up of his marriage.

     In 1966 Mesrine meets Jeanne (Cecile De France), very much a kindred spirit. She eagerly joins him in committing armed robberies but they overstep the mark when they rob a mob owned premises. The gloves are off, and the mob attempt a hit on Mesrine when he is with his daughter that persuades him that France has become too dangerous. Jeanne and Mesrine move to Montreal, Canada. On a building site Mesrine meets Jean-Paul Mercier (Roy Dupuis). After a failed kidnap and extortion attempt Mesrine and Jeanne flee to the USA only to be caught and extradited back to Canada. There, on arrival, Mesrine gets his first taste of media attention which he enjoys. Less enjoyable is his sentence of 10 years in the notorious maximum security SCU prison where he is joined by Jean-Paul.

     In prison Mesrine is isolated, tortured and beaten in an attempt to break his spirit. It fails. Mesrine and Jean-Paul not only manage to escape but later return to the prison to fulfil a promise to try to free others. In a welter of gunfire they fail and are wounded, yet they escape to recover and embark upon a spree of robberies and murders in Canada. Mesrine has become l’ennemi public no. 1.

     Part 1 of the film started with the events leading up to the ambush of Mesrine by French Security forces. Part 2 commences with the aftermath, Mesrine dead in the street, before backtracking to 1972. Mesrine has returned to France. His old friends Guido and Paul are dead (we saw them assassinated towards the end of Part 1), so Mesrine mixes in different circles. While still engaged in violent crime, robberies, murder and kidnapping, he also enjoys his media notoriety, fuelled, for example, by his escape from a courtroom just before being sentenced. Captured and imprisoned again he feels the media is not covering his exploits enough so in prison he writes a best selling book L’instinct de mort (Killer Instinct).

     With Francois Besse (Mathieu Amalric), Mesrine stages another daring escape from prison and the two embark upon an extensive crime spree, robbing banks and a casino in a hail of gunfire, escaping hordes of police and national guard. During this time Mesrine meets a new woman, Sylvie (Ludivine Sagnier), and he starts to like to see himself as a revolutionary, attacking the capitalist system. This causes a rift with Francois: he does not want to change the society, just “milk it”! Mesrine also sees himself as a celebrity, giving interviews to the press and, indeed, he becomes jealous about his image, abducting, brutally beating and attempting to murder a journalist who questioned his image of himself and his motives. The film ends as it began in Part 1; with Mesrine’s slaying by French security forces in 1979. But while before we got sections of this sequence at the start of both Part 1 and Part 2, now we get the full, long version, the tension building because we have seen some of this before and know what will happen.

     Before each part of the film, an on screen quote in part reads No film can faithfully reproduce the complexity of a human life. To each his point of view and this biopic gives us a Mesrine that is certainly one point of view. In a powerful performance by Vincent Cassel that deservedly won a Best Actor award at the 2009 Cesars, he is on screen almost the entire time. His Mesrine is intelligent and fast thinking (in an early scene he is caught during a house burglary by the owners but quickly persuades them he is a detective investigating the robbery!), a father who cares for his children and his family, a man with a strong code of loyalty and honour to his friends. He promises, for example, to return to the SCU prison to free other inmates, and he does just that at a great risk to himself, taking on numerous guards and police in a shoot-out. On the other hand, he is amoral, brutal, violent, cruel, dismissive of the women who love him, vain with an overriding sense of his own needs and his own celebrity status. His murderous and brutal beating of the journalist who dared to question Mesrine’s view of himself is ample evidence of his psychotic personality. So while we deplore Mesrine’s actions and conduct, Cassel never fails to make him both interesting and very, very real.

     Mesrine: L’instinct de mort and Mesrine: L’ennemi public no. 1 won 3 Cesars in 2009, including best director for Jean-Francois Richel to go with the Cesar for the stunning performance by Vincent Cassel. Mesrine: Public Enemy # 1 is, in total, almost 4 hours long; some of the earlier sections setting the scene and characters seem a bit slow, but once the film gets into its stride it never lets up, and Part 2 is almost pure thriller action, with robberies, shoot outs, escapes and the tension of the closing sequences. Mesrine: Public Enemy # 1 is, quite simply, an excellent film; biopic, thriller, exciting crime drama and intense human study all in one. See it and get hooked.

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Transfer Quality


     Mesrine: Public Enemy # 1 is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, the original theatrical ratio, and is 16x9 enhanced. The film looks great. It has exceptional clarity and sharpness, every wrinkle and blemish on Cassel’s many faces faithfully rendered. Blacks are solid and shadow detail great. Colours vary from the garish colour palates of clubs, to muted and natural colour schemes in town and countryside to the prison greys. Skin tones are natural. I saw no evidence of grain or artefacts; only some edge enhancement.

     At times the film employs a range of split screen effects, most notably during the opening credits for Part 1 when up to 5 or 6 separate screens are on show. They are used, but not overused, on other occasions to good dramatic effect, such as in the final telephone conversation between Mesrine and Jeanne who is still in prison. Each of the two has very different reactions to what is being said, which the split screen enhances.

     In Part 2 the tone and techniques are different. There are no split screens here; instead there is much more extensive use of hand held cameras, jumbled shots and shots out of focus and frame to give a documentary feeling that works well.

     Forced English subtitles are in a white font without any obvious spelling or grammatical errors other than the American spelling.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     Audio is a choice between French Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kbps, French Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224 Kbps. The 5.1 is a good, enveloping track. Dialogue is clear and the front sound stage effective but it lacks the vibrancy of other recent films; the gunshots, for example, seem to lack depth. However, the audio does have a good surround presence. The surrounds are used constantly for ambient noise, music, crowd and car sounds with the traffic panning across the rear sound stage. The sub woofer supports explosions and the music.

     I did not notice any issues with lip synchronisation.

     The music by Marco Beltrami and Marcus Trumpp is an excellent adjunct to the film building the tension appropriately when needed yet providing more subtle piano cues in the quieter, reflective moments. There are also occasional US, British and French popular songs to set the scene, such as a section of London Calling when the film switches briefly to London.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Original Theatrical Trailers (2:10)

    Theatrical trailers for Part 1 (2:15) and Part 2 (2:02) are on both discs.

Madman Trailers

     Trailers for other films from Madman. On Part 1 are Bronson (2:27), Gomarrah (2:08), Samson & Delilah (2:10) and Waltz With Bashir (1:55). On Part 2 is Cocaine Cowboys 2: Hustlin’ With the Godmother (2:32), Jerusalema (2:18), Noise (2:16) and Transsiberian (1:43).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     There is not currently a Region 1 release. The Region 2 UK also has the two films packaged together. It includes film trailers but in addition each film has a making of; that for Part 1 runs 47:32, that for Part 2 runs 44:53. These extras make the Region 2 DVD a better choice.

     There are also Blu-ray Region B releases in both France and the UK. The French release has extras and PIP but no subtitles. The English Blu-ray has the two “making of” as on the DVD and more additional featurettes including an interview with director Richel (25:03), a featurette on the characters (17:55) and one on the score (10:12). However, both parts of the film, plus all the extras, are on one 50Gb disc and some reviewers have commented that this affects the picture quality.


     Mesrine: Public Enemy # 1 is an excellent film; biopic, thriller, exciting crime drama and intense human study all in one. It is hugely entertaining and includes a stunning performance by Vincent Cassel that deservedly won the Best Actor award at the 2009 Cesars. The Region 4 DVD has very good video and audio but unfortunately the extras from the Region 2 UK release are not included, which is a major disappointment. However, in whatever form, the film is a must see for anyone at all remotely interested in crime films. Warning: it is addictive.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Friday, April 16, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S350, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 42inch Hi-Def LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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