The Magnificent 7 in the Wild West of Africa.
The vintage category refers to movies that came out more than two calendar years prior to the review (earlier than January 2019). No, it doesn’t make real sense.
Some back story. I get most of my DVDs from Redbox where I never pay more than the minimum $4 bottom of the barrel liquidation prices. That’s why most of the films I get from there are total crap or very indie. I picked up Love and Monsters based on the title and the cover art, as I do, and brought it home. On a whim I watched the trailer and the movie looks like absolute shit. Bad enough that I really wanted to see what other work the director has done.
That’s how I found Five Fingers For Marseilles. Now you may not be aware that How About Notflix used to be a podcast until the other two members quit in protest of the bad movies we watched. We still watch films but not for the purpose of recording movies, and the quality has gone up considerably. I showed them the trailers for Five Fingers and Love & Monsters and neither of them would believe me that the same director made both.
Five Fingers For Marseilles is an African-based homage to western films like Magnificent 7. Released in 2017 it was the first feature length film directed by Michael Matthews, the guy who went on to direct Love & Monsters.
The plot of the movie is very straightforward. It starts out with our lead character Tau (Vuyo Dabula) as a child and a member of the Five Fingers, a group of kids who find themselves fighting back against police oppression. When Tau kills two police officers, he flees the scene and becomes an outlaw. Twenty years later Tau returns to the shanty town to once again find it under the oppressive thumb of an authoritarian. Can Tau save his village and find his friends? Does anyone think the answer is going to be no?
While the film itself is a take on post-apartheid politics, you can see the obvious influences from American westerns and Italian spaghetti westerns of the time. We even get an homage to Sergio Leone’s famous standoff scene. It harkens back to a period where westerns were filthy, and grungy. The actors weren’t dolled up Hollywood stars and even the best protagonist wasn’t exactly the role model you’d want for your kids.
A lot changes from when Tau flees as a child to when he comes back as an adult. The Five Fingers have long since disbanded, and while the apartheid has ended the corruption that grips the town has only gotten worse. His ex-friends do not trust each other and worse of all they blame Tau for their current positions in life.
It’s a dry, miserable film with superb acting by a cast you’ve definitely never heard of before. The overall film is slow and plodding, but it keeps your attention through sporadic moments of action. The villain is almost exaggerated enough to seem grounded among the rest of the characters. Suffice to say I really loved this film.
My only problem with Five Fingers For Marseilles is that there’s not enough of it. The transition from kids to adults is so sharp and sudden that we don’t see enough of the kids to understand their personalities, and it does dampen the effect of seeing them as adults and being told how much they’ve changed.