CHICAGO – Mention the name Harry Lennix, and images of his many character roles are bound to emerge – Harold Cooper in the TV series “The Blacklist,” General Swanwick from “Batman v Superman” and Commissioner Blades from Spike Lee’s recent “Chi-Raq.” The deeply knowledgeable Lennix brings his years of dramatic expertise, as he directs the Congo Square Theatre Company’s world premiere stage play “A Small Oak Tree Runs Red.’
Film Review: Vincent Cassel Gives Riveting Performance in ‘Mesrine: Killer Instinct’
CHICAGO – The film around its riveting central performance may be a little more flawed than the entire project’s international reputation would have you believe but Vincent Cassel alone makes a trip to “Mesrine: Killer Instinct” worth the time and emotional effort. Be warned that this is not a crime epic for the faint of heart and those who have difficulty with an anti-hero protagonist may be turned off but those attuned to this kind of storytelling will find a lot to like here.
Directed by Jean-Francois Richet from a script that he co-wrote with Abdel Raouf Dafri, “Mesrine: Killer Instinct” is the first half of a pair of crime epics that have been incredibly successful over the last several years in France and other European countries. (The second half if “Mesrine: Public Enemey #1” which we will cover in this space next week.) The films episodically tell the life story of the legendary Jacques Mesrine (Vincent Cassel), an internationally famous criminal responsible for dozens of bank robberies and murders in the ’60s and ’70s.
|Read Brian Tallerico’s full review of “Mesrine: Killer Instinct” in our reviews section.|
The “Mesrine” films have obvious thematic commonalities with Michael Mann’s “Public Enemies” in that they merge to highlight the major events from the saga of a larger-than-life figure who became a household name through his evil ways. However, Richet doesn’t have the same attention to detail or notable skill as Mann or others who have tackled this very-challenging genre. It’s difficult to make a loathsome human being worth watching and Richet sometimes drops that ball.
Lucky for him, he cast one of the best French actors alive to pick it up. Cassel, who has stolen scenes in a diverse line-up of films that include “Eastern Promises,” “Ocean’s Twelve,” “Crimson Rivers,” “Irreversible,” and “La Haine” (and will be seen again soon in Darren Aronofsky’s highly anticipated “Black Swan”), gives the best performance of his career, bringing his prodigious charisma to carry the film. His work here has won several international awards and it’s a stunner — charming, riveting, and perfect. He alone makes the film worth seeing.
Mesrine: Killer Instiinct
Photo credit: Music Box Films