I give nothing away saying that.
The film, distributed by Music Box Films, follows the "career" of Jacques Mesrine, a notorious French criminal, in a sort of Goodfellas au Francais. It is a very good movie but not life changing. Character development is not exactly this film's forte, people meet, then you see them as best pals or lovers. BUT this is probably by design and the acting goes a long way to make up for this lack of development. And it would have taken too much time to really develop all the characters. We get sketches instead. This bothers me less as time goes by and I think more about the film.
Vincent Cassel (who won a Cesar for the film) is particularly good as the lead but supporting roles, and indeed very small ones, make a difference in this film. Michel Duchaussoy, who plays Mesrine's father is barely on the screen but you completely understand who his character is just from these few minutes. No one ever talks enough about how important supporting roles like this are. They can make a movie.
Gerard Depardieu (forgive the missing accent!) also appears in what could be equated to the Paul Sorvino role in Goodfellas and, as usual, also makes a mark, again, despite less than massive screen time.
There is something ramshackle about the film but it also moves smoothly, if that makes sense. Suddenly years go by but you do not FEEL as if anything is missing necessarily. At one point a never seen robbery leads to a prison sentence. Do we NEED to see the robbery? Nope.
My only real complaint was that I didn't know this was part one of two. It leaves you hanging a bit. I enjoyed it. I was never once thinking about my laundry or phone bill while in the theater. Kudos to Music Box yet again for bringing a fine foreign film to the good old USA.