Films & Schedules

  • Public Enemy Number One (Part 1)
    L'Instinct de Mort (Formerly Mesrine)

  • Jean-François Richet

110 minutes

Production Company:
La Petite Reine/Remstar/Novo RPI/M6 Films
Executive Producer:
Daniel Delume
Thomas Langmann
Abdel Raouf Dafri, based on the novel L'instinct de mort by Jacques Mesrine
Production Designer:
Emile Ghigo
Robert Gantz
Hervé Schneid
Jean Minondo
Principal Cast: Vincent Cassel, Cécile de France, Gérard Depardieu, Roy Dupuis, Gilles Lellouche

Canadian Distributor:
Alliance Films
US Distributor:
Senator Entertainment US
International Sales Agent:

Thursday September 1106:30PM ROY THOMSON HALL Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist
Friday September 1209:00PM RYERSON Best Bet Add Film to MyTIFF Filmlist

Featuring a cast of French and Québécois all-stars that includes Vincent Cassel, Gérard Depardieu, Roy Dupuis and Cécile de France, Mesrine is a hard-charging epic about one of Europe's most daring gangsters. This is Scarface, en français.

Inspired by Jacques Mesrine's autobiographical book L'Instinct de mort – which he wrote in prison shortly before his magnificent final escape – Jean-François Richet's fast-paced drama charts Mesrine's rise from a wayward French soldier in Algeria to a bolder and bolder criminal on the streets of Paris. Mesrine's outlaw odyssey even brought him to Canada, where he fell in with separatist radicals in Quebec. Thirty years after French police gunned him down in a spectacular shootout, his infamy lives on. Equal parts thriller and biopic, Mesrine remains faithful to its central character, a dynamic figure who is by no means a model protagonist.

The first of two paired films about the man, Mesrine lays the foundation for his later crime sprees in a trial-by-fire sequence in Algeria. Mesrine gets a taste for raw power after an episode interrogating a prisoner, and once back in France he realizes that power and money are all there for the taking. His only obstacle is Guido, the ruthless local crime boss (Depardieu). Cassel and Depardieu sink their teeth deep into these characters; the showdown between Mesrine and Guido is one of the more thrilling set pieces this year. And once Mesrine meets the beautiful and equally reckless Jeanne Schneider (de France), he has a Bonnie to match his Clyde. They launch into a string of armed robberies that takes them from Paris all the way to Montreal.

Richet paints Mesrine's story in bold strokes on a vast canvas. His use of music and the vigour and inventiveness of the film's visual style will invite comparisons to Martin Scorsese, but Richet brings a particularly French feel to the tale. This is a grand, audacious portrait of the man behind the myth.

Jean-François Richet grew up in Meaux, a suburb east of Paris. He is an award-winning editor, writer and director. His filmography includes État des lieux (95), Ma 6-T va crack-er (97), De l'amour (01), Assault on Precinct 13 (05) and Mesrine (08).

Cadillac People's Choice Award