Monday, April 4, 2011


I just finished watching the two-part French movie "Mesrine: Killer Instinct" and "Mesrine: Public Enemy #1" starring Vincent Cassel.

This bio-pic raises some interesting questions. What is the personality of a criminal, the character flaw? And why do we admire them?

(I liked the first part best. In the second part, we lose sympathy for Mesrine, and the movie becomes a tad long. Still, I recommend it.)

Why does an intelligent and charismatic man hang out with thugs and gangsters, rob banks and casinos, impersonate cops, beat people up, abuse women, neglect his children, and kill people?

The short answer is because he can, for awhile.

There is something missing in a man like Jacques Mesrine. He has no impulse control and no empathy. He wants something, and he takes it. He hates someone, and he kills them. The cops try to arrest him, and he shoots it out with them.

I don't know anything about the real Mesrine, but I presume the movie is fairly accurate. The Mesrine in the movie is a pretty disgusting character. But in a way he does what a lot of us want to do. He acts on our secret desires, our repressed impulses. Damn the consequences, he pulls the trigger.

In the second part of the movie, he kills a man in cold blood, because he thinks the man has written a magazine article criticizing him. Criticize me? How dare you! Here, taste my fist! Eat lead and die.

Some of us have impulses like that. In the movie, Mesrine does some terrible things, but they are things the rest of us want to do. We all get mad, and we all want to kill people, but we don't.

I think that is our fascination. We want to see what would happen to us if we followed our own worst impulses. The answer in this movie is clear: We would come to a bad end.

It's a lot easier to watch a movie about a criminal than it is to be one. It seems to me that most movies provide vicarious experiences. Here, it isn't really thrilling to be Mesrine, but it is grimly fascinating to watch him tempt fate and defy the law. It may be fun for Mesrine for awhile, but it is not fun all the time, and it is certainly no fun at the end.

Thank God for the cops, or the Mesrines of the world would run wild over the rest of us. Cities would be jungles. We can't allow ourselves to run wild, and we can't allow men like Mesrine to run wild either.

But they sure are fun to watch.

-- Roger

© Copyright 2011, Roger R. Angle


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