Jean-Francois Richet's last film was the US remake of Assault on Precinct 13. He returned to France to make L'Instinct De Mort (Public Enemy Number One), a 240 minute crime thriller that is fucking impressive.
Vincent Cassel plays real life crime torpedo Jacques Mesrine, a man who saw himself as a "revolutionary". Not everybody agreed with his definition of the term, but that's part of the fun.
Richet documents Mesrine's incredible career via powerhouse cinema. Some critics have complained about the film's "overstylization" and lack of substance. I say "Bullshit!" to that. It's not overstylized or lacking in substance. It cuts to the chase and gives us a very clear sense of what Mesrine was about.
Is it a "French Scarface" as some have suggested? No! Why does it need to be? Why does it need to be categorized like that?
L'Instinct De Mort is a work of great velocity and passion. The violence is brutal and sudden, similar at times to the intensity of the street shootout in Michael Mann's Heat. The character work is superb. Every part is impeccably cast. I particularly loved the way Mesrine's relationships with women were portrayed. "You're just a piece of ass!" he complains at one point, distilling the reality and the folly of romantic relationships for a man such as himself.
One of the film's many beautiful pleasures is watching Gerard Depardieu deliver a volcanic performance as Guido, a cold crime boss who forms a bond with Cassel's Mesrine early on. Their on-screen chemistry is electric.
I've seen a handful of very decent films lately, but this trumps them all.