When I first saw the trailer for Five Fingers for Marseilles in February, I immediately knew I wanted to watch it. I love modern westerns and this one looked like it would be a good one. When I was recently was given the opportunity to view the film early, I jumped at the chance.
Set in South Africa, Tau and his four friends who fought against brutal police oppression twenty years ago. During one of their confrontations, Tau killed two corrupt police officers and then fled in fear of the repercussions. Now Tau, after leading a life of crime, has decided to come back to his hometown to attempt to live a more peaceful life. Once back in Marseilles, however, Tau learns how the actions of one person can affect an entire community and that it is hard to escape from your past. He also realizes that his hometown is under a new threat, and he is going to need help in order to free the town. Can the Five Fingers put their differences aside to once again fight oppression in their town?
Five Fingers for Marseilles is an enthralling modern western that does not let the viewer go until the credits start to roll. Sean Drummond’s script gives us characters with extraordinary depth. They are all unique in their motivations and help enforce the theme of how the actions of one can affect many. I loved Vuyo Dabula as Tau. You feel the weight of the guilt he is carrying along with the regret and anger with himself in addition to the anger with what is happening in Marseilles. Lerato is fantastically played by Zethu Dlomo. She is a strong and sympathetic character that is just trying to take care of her father and their bar. She makes you feel her confusion and pain for Tau leaving. Then there is the villain Sepoko, played by Hamilton Dhlamini. Dhlamini gives a hauntingly dark performance. There are few villains who have made the hairs on my arm stand on end but Sepoko is one of them. Every word of dialog is dripping with tension, as if Sepoko was a cobra ready to strike at any moment. All of the characters in this film are memorable and very fitting for a western.
The direction of Michael Matthews is razor sharp. I loved how he unfolded this story with all the flare and feeling of the western genre while not going overboard on the tropes. Matthews gives a film with a great balance of drama, action and even a little humor. It is the management of tension in this film where Matthews really shines. For instance, there is a scene in Laratos bar where Tau and Sepoko meet for the first time. This is one of the most intense scenes in the film yet there is no action. Just two characters talking but you could cut the tension with a knife. There are other moments like this where the audience may find themselves holding their breath in anticipation for everything to go south. The cinematography by Shaun Lee is visually stunning. Lee helps make the location of Marseilles another character in the film. His shots felt like they were taken directly out of the old Italian Westerns. The third act has the execution of a Sergio Leone western with the brutality of a Sam Pekinpah film. The conclusion that may surprise you but is also very fitting.
Five Fingers for Marseilles did not disappoint and it exceeded my expectations. I enjoyed every minute of it. It is subtitled which may deter people from watching it. If that is the case, they will be missing out on one of the best foreign films to come out in recent years. It had definitely moved up to one of my top films of the year. 10 out of 10
Five Finger For Marseilles will open in limited release starting in New York on Friday, September 7th.
Los Angeles 9/14/18
Columbus, OH 9/14/18
Atlanta, GA 9/21/18
Phoenixville, PA 9/21/18
Baltimore, MD 9/28/18