I had never heard of Jacques Mesrine before today, but I should have. Take a look at this Wikipedia entry, which matter-of-factly details the dozens of murders, bank robberies and prison escapes pulled off by the legendary French criminal over a 20-year "career." The best part is that he once fled from a sentencing hearing by taking the judge hostage. How can that possibly work?

Anyway, the story's obviously well-known in France, and it has finally made its way to the screen in a two-part biopic called Public Enemy No. 1, starring (who else?) Vincent Cassel as Mesrine. Budgeted at $80 million, it's one of the biggest French productions ever. At least the first of the films is slated to get an October release in France, and the American rights have gone to Senator Entertainment -- the distributor that helped bury All the Boys Love Mandy Lane after the Weinsteins dumped it. Its president promises to do better with Public Enemy, hoping to have the first film in American theaters by the end of the year. He compares it to GoodFellas and Scarface. Honestly, though, Mesrine sounds like more of a badass than Tony Montana.

The movies were directed by Jean-François Richet, who made the not-terrible American remake of John Carpenter's Assault on Precinct 13 a couple of years back. They co-star Gerard Depardieu and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly's Mathieu Amalric (who will also be seen in Quantum of Solace). Oh, and Ludivigne Sagnier, whom I just saw in the very good Love Songs.