Five Fingers For Marseilles: Review

Five Fingers For Marseilles: Review

The western is having a weird comeback these days. The spirit of the films of old, of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood, has been revived, albeit in new and different ways. Sometimes more obviously than others – taking a sci-fi route with Cowboys Vs Aliens and an exploitation horror film twist with Bone Tomahawk. But mostly, it’s in increasingly subtle ways – films like Logan and Western taking the stories, tone and pacing of those films and setting them in a more modern era. The kinds of stories here are truly timeless and work in any time in any part of the world.

The latest of these films is Five Fingers for Marseilles. Set in South Africa, around twenty years ago, the film follows the chaos that happens when a young man, named Tau, kills two corrupt police men threatening the shanty. It’s a nice, simple story that doesn’t do anything more than what is said on the tin – we get blood and grit, leading to a climax that sets out to be a blood bath. If I had to compare the story of Five Fingers for Marseilles, it would probably be The Magnificent Seven. Although, comparisons do not do a film justice.

Five Fingers for Marseilles is violent, needless to say. While the violence was never hard to watch, it was brutal and at times fairly realistic. There are some moments of typical action silliness – a car flipping over in the desert sands and a man being shot out of a broken window, that sort of thing. But mostly, when someone gets shot it does feel like someone just got shot. It’s unapologetic, but it does feel necessarily so.



What I liked most about Five Fingers for Marseilles was the cinematography. The framing and lighting, which aren’t really things I notice unless they’re particularly bad, demonstrated everything positive about the film. From them you could feel the craft of the artist and the love he feels for this story. It pays a good deal of homage to the films of Sergio Leone, namely in the outdoor, quieter moments. There were some scenes set indoors that reminded me more of the films of Tony Scott, namely Domino and Man on Fire. It’s the matter of fact camera work and the slightly overexposed neon lighting, that gives the film a lived-in, yet staged feel – which is how I liked it. It’s unique. It gives the film a very deliberate and, again, pointed feel.

But sadly, Five Fingers for Marseilles also reminded that sometimes, Westerns can feel like very drawn out affairs. I won’t lie, while the action was well handled, the directing had style and the acting was mostly good, I did find myself looking at my watch at points. Something wasn’t grabbing me. There isn’t really much I’d call great about this film, it was mostly just good. That is praise, but it needed to be a little more to stand out in my mind – especially with how familiar the story is. The one of the bad man who renounces violence, but the suffering of others brings them back into that world once again. For me, not really enough was done to differ it from many others like it. On a side note, if you are one of those people who struggles with subtitled films, then you will be in for a harder time than usual with this one. It’s set in South Africa, and there is over eleven different languages spoken there. That means that numerous characters speak different languages throughout the film, and most change between them. This didn’t hinder the film for me, but I think there are a few who it might do.

Five Fingers for Marseilles is a good film, which I’m not sure I’ll remember long down the road. What’s impressive is impressive, but the pace, and possibly a too long running time did bog it down for me. I am very much appreciative of the effort on display and hope to see another film from these film makers again. In the end, it just wasn’t for me. It being just too similar to one too many films of a similar nature.


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Callum spends most free days with friends (mostly watching films, to be honest), caring for his dog, writing, more writing and watching films whenever he can find the chance (which is very often).

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