Many of the best Westerns are set outside America: The Proposition; The Good, The Bad, and the Weird; and Utu, to name a few. Michael Matthews' Five Fingers For Marseilles is no exception. Shot and set in South Africa and performed entirely in Sesotho, it nods to all the Westerns you love, but tells a uniquely South African story.
I could tell you all about the film’s gorgeous photography, its often shockingly brutal violence, its strange and grim production design, or its strong ensemble cast. I could wax lyrical about its morally ambiguous storyline and how it balances a region-wide power struggle with a personal tale of regret and a breathtaking subversion of the Western theme of manifest destiny. Or I could direct you to Anya Stanley’s review, and embed the brand-new red-band trailer that quotes that review:
Five Fingers screened at TIFF, Fantastic Fest, and Fantasia (where I saw it), and it’s been holding up well with critics, currently boasting the much-vaunted 100% Rotten Tomatoes rating (for what that’s worth). There’s good reason for that, too: it’s a gripping, emotional, and action-packed movie, full of everything you love about Westerns and then some. When it’s not cleverly twisting Western conventions to its South African setting, it’s telling a compelling story about five estranged childhood friends, the villains that threaten them, and the scars left by Western colonisation.
Five Fingers For Marseilles opens in limited release in September, spreading through New York, Los Angeles, Columbus, Atlanta, Phoenixville, and Baltimore over the month (and in that order), with more cities to be added. Keep an eye out, and don’t miss it. Because it’s reeeeaaal good.