L’Ennemi Public nº 1

L’Ennemi Public nº 1
di Jean-Francois Richet (2008)

Second part of a diptych of films dedicated to the life of Jacques Mesrine, the most famous French criminal of the post-war period.


“Why does he do all this?”
“Because I don’t like the laws. I don’t like the laws and I don’t want to be a slave to an alarm clock every morning. I don’t want a dreamed life. I don’t want to say in front of a shop window: it would take me ten months of work to buy this or that. No..no, no, no.”

“But what is he looking for by living like this: glory, money?”

“What a question..money, money, always money. You know how it is? We live in a world of exploiters, but I don’t exploit anyone. What do I do? I look for money where it is, that is, in the banks.”
(Jacques Mesrine and a journalist)

The 1970s.

Jacques Mesrine has now gained a certain notoriety after the criminal exploits committed in the 1960s.

He returns to France in 1972 and continues to do what he does best: rob banks.

But the risk is always around the corner and so, the following year, he is arrested and tried.
To escape prison, he even takes a judge hostage during a court hearing.

Despite this, four months later he finds himself in a cell, in La Santé prison.

Here, annoyed by the fact that the press prefers to report news about Pinochet rather than giving him space, he decides to write an autobiography.

However, it seems that there is no prison capable of stopping Mesrine. In fact, on May 8, 1978, together with three other inmates, he escapes from this place as well. Throughout France, the story turns into a scandal.

The following months are spent between robberies, kidnappings, burglaries, and arms smuggling. And also many murders; in his criminal actions, probably thirty-nine people were involved and lost their lives.

With the kidnapping of millionaire Henry Lelièvre and the ransom of 6 million francs extorted from the family, Mesrine officially becomes public enemy No.1.


Richet, in this second chapter, significantly raises the level of spectacle and pace.
In the over two hours of the film, there is never a moment of pause, as the events narrated do not allow respite.

Even the dialogues are tight, the words follow one another quickly.
The psychological portrait of the character is incredibly powerful and, at the same time, fascinating.

The challenge to the system is open and total, immersed in a very turbulent decade from a political and social point of view.

And Mesrine becomes an active part of it all, beating bloody and finally shooting in the head a right-wing journalist.

A visually difficult sequence to sustain because it is extremely raw and violent.

Just as violent and noteworthy is the ending, with a staging that cannot help but recall that of “Gangster Story” by Penn.

Cassel, artfully fattened up to play the part, is increasingly skilled at showing all the self-destructive madness of his character, a man who constantly lives outside of society and knows he is headed for a tragic end.

L’Ennemi Public nº 1. A great film to definitely catch up on.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *