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  • NB: If you're Sotho, the accent and bad vocabulary will put you off. I'm glad I was told this before watching, so I went in prepared and told myself to ignore this.

    Viewing quality - The scenery is absolutely breathtaking and the cameraman wasn't stingy at all. During scenes, the panning is very clean. The night shots aren't so great for me though. They were a little restrictive with the lighting. The colour scheme shows that the town has warm weather, however, I wish the night lighting would resemble shots like these[]. The night scenes should have been nice, crisp, night shots, but with a warm feel instead of the cold blue like the image on that link. I've noticed that a lot of South African films are a little behind when it comes to lighting.

    Storyline - I will not be giving away much, but it's about a boy from a small oppressed town, who had to run away from his neighbourhood after doing something really bad and returned home as an adult only to find that the oppression hasn't changed - It is the oppressors who have changed. I'll refrain from adding to this to avoid giving spoilers.

    Quality of play - Apart from the accent, the acting and film quality was perfect. There are quite a few mysteries that make you feel like it would be a good idea to watch the movie again, but not at the cinema. It doesn't feel like a rush.

    Movie conclusion (my version) - You live by the gun, you die by the gun - Hence the constant and explicit 'voilence' references throughout the movie. The scene about the pastor at the very end sealed it for me. If you haven't watched you'll have to watch to understand.

    Sigh.. Okay about the Sesotho - I think Michael Matthews disregarded the fact that a bad accent can affect a movie negatively. I'm not sure if the target market is international, but South Africans, including non-Sotho speaking South Africans could hear that the accent was very off. This was with almost all the actors, including the main actors. It seems like the line-up was more important though. After all, seeing who is starring is has a lot of people interested in the movie. If only the actors spoke proper Sesotho.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I saw this film at the Toronto film festival and we were lucky enough to have Q&A with the cast and crew and we got to meet some of the cast. Before I get into the crux of the review, let me call attention to Vuyo Dabula. He exudes charm and has instant screen presence. At first glance, he reminded me of a young Idris Elba but meeting him face to face, he is much shorter and has different features, but has the same kind of love affair with the camera. When he is on screen, the film is that much better. He is articulate, good looking and demands attention. He also did almost all of his own stunts...and there a lot of them. He said in the question period that the only thing he was not allowed to do is fall off the horse. I expect to see him transition over to Hollywood one day. He already had a small role in Age of Ultron, it's just a matter of time before producers take notice of him.

    The film begins with 5 childhood friends who have had enough of police aggression in their small South African village. They start by throwing eggs and stones at the cops and then when one of the group gets taken, Tau, the most brazen of the group, takes her back forcefully. He kills two officers and then spends the next twenty years on the run. The five friends call themselves the Five Fingers of Versailles.

    Tau returns 20 years later to a town, and friends, transformed by the violence caused that day. With the crooked cops now replaced by a caustic gang, Tau must take a stand and fight for what he believes in. He can only hope that the other members of the five fingers still have what it takes to do the right thing. It's time to defend or be driven from the land.

    With inspiration from spaghetti Westerns, Tarantionoesque dialogue and even films like Gladiator and Roadhouse, it may pay homage in some ways to these films but director Michael Matthews and writer Sean Drummond put their own unique stamp on it and for a western movie-goer like me, I have never really seen it done like this before. Five Fingers for Marseilles subverts the genre by placing the story within the Indigenous community. We also witness really interesting character additions with a white travelling salesman and a Chinese store owner. I learned while watching the Chinese smash--Wolf Warrior 2 that China and South Africa have a rich tradition and strong history with one another. Michael Matthews was asked about his decision to add the salesman and the Chinese store owner, he replied that these are all authentic characters that you would find in a small place like the one in the film.

    Gorgeously captured by director of photography Shaun Harley Lee and beautifully directed by Michael Matthews, the film both honours westerns of the past while trailblazing its own path. I haven't seen a lot of westerns recently, but this is certainly one of the better ones of the last 30 years. This is a film that took 7 years to make, from the time of the idea to the final edit. It was a labour of love.

    There's a lot of violence and plenty of blood. It would certainly get an R rating here in Canada and the US. This is one of the areas the film excels. The direction allows the violence to percolate. It doesn't cut away from a lot of the gun shots, burning bodies, machete hacks and raw punches to the face. It's tough in that way, but it also benefits from it.

    I hope this gets a distribution deal in North America and I really hope it is remembered come Oscar night. Everything about it is top notch. Every actor was terrific, the script was superb and as mentioned the photography and direction were outstanding.

  • Films coming out of South Africa are getting better & better. Last week i watched Catching Feelings and it was good. Yesterday i had to watch this one, who wouldn't after seeing the trailer and poster ? This film reminded me of Bruce Willis' 1996 cowboy movie Last Man Standing because they are alike. Difference is Fiver Fingers for Marseilles is not as straight forward and at 2 hours long it seems like 3 because the pacing is slow. The setting up of characters in this case epilogue is around 20 minutes. Then everything seem puzzling and you will ask yourself why, how, when. The biggest flaw is the script. It was written by a certain Sean Drummond who i presume is an English speaker and then given to a translator who did direct translation resulting in some dialogue/sayings/phrases being lost in the process. I don't even speak South African languages but i picked some of it. The other flaw is the casting. The younger Lerato of about 14 years old is light skinned (popularly known as yellow bones) as an adult woman she is now darker skinned which never happens thereby not making sense. It is mistakes like these that turn local audiences off because we feel we are being taken for granted. The bright side is the main cast is just brilliant. I had doubts about Vuyo Dabula's acting chops in Generations because he is one dimensional but now i am convinced he has talent. Hamilton Dhlamini who plays the villain is just magnificent that you would think he came out of a Hollywood horror movie. Veteran Kenneth Nkosi and newbie Zethu don't disappoint.

    Keep it up guys.
  • This was a good movie. I can say I was highly impressed. The movie looked amazing first off. The camera work was amazing. Based off westerns, the movie is slow and dramatic but I loved the way the story and drama builds. I was always kept interested. The characters are interesting and the relationships between them are well crafted.

    The main actor is very cool in this movie and is a great protagonist. He plays the badass hero role perfectly. The villain is very creepy and they did a good job of making him a menacing and evil character. Most of the side characters are also interesting and have their own agendas and issues.

    I liked the R rating of this movie as they did not hold back in the scenes of violence. This allowed them to create some really intense scenes that really heightened the drama.

    I loved the movie up until the third act. I feel like the third act becomes a bit slow and tedious as it builds to the final act climax which is a confusing gun battle that could have been crafted a bit better in my opinion. The finale left a sick feeling in my stomach as the directors decided to express a strong philosophy through this story which makes the story feel senseless but besides the ending I feel like this was a very well crafted and entertaining film with some great acting and cinematography.
  • katstolle5 October 2018
    Five Fingers for Marseilles is Michael Matthew's modern take on the classic western genre. He pays homage to those films that came before his, especially to classic spaghetti westerns such as The Dollars Trilogy, known for their standoff scenes. The movie uses the stand-off to parallel itself, beginning with harmless slingshots and ending with guns. Sean Drummond, the writer, created characters I really enjoyed. This vibrant cast was made up of actors I had never seen before, and I was quickly pulled into the story. The director clearly understood the characters and what they needed for me to get lost in their portrayals of these hometown heroes turned villains. Vuyo Dabula, who plays the main character, did a great job portraying the anti-hero and I found myself both routing for and intimidated of him by the end of the film. Each character had their own past to deal with and I was captivated by how they all chose to deal with their mistakes. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and would recommend it.
  • Rushing toward the police car that has crashed in nearby brush, Tau races to rescue Lerato from the back of the police vehicle. As he nears the car, a white policeman slowly gets out of the car and is holding Lerato who is being held by gunpoint. This intense scene is just a glimpse of the suspenseful western, Five Fingers for Mareilles, which has proven to be a revolutionary piece of South African cinematography directed by the talented Michael Matthews. Matthews has decided to stay true to the South African culture, picking the native language as the movie's main dialogue and hiring a crop of new South African actors who are remarkable. Vuyo Dabula, who plays the Tau, the lion on Mareilles impressed me with an engaging performance that immersed me into his adventure of saving his hometown from the clutches of the feared Sepoko and his gang. The movie takes a twist on the bildungs roman genre, giving the audience a glimpse into South African society through the growth of the five fingers, the childhood clique Tau was a part of before an unfortunate event caused his life to spiral. The cinematography is stunning, prioritizing wide shots and muted colors to represent the open landscape of rural South Africa. It takes the classic spaghetti western genre and makes the movie its own, being modern through the use of parallels and breaking down racial walls with featuring a mostly all black cast that was phenomenal. I will be waiting for more work to feature Dabula as he gives an emotional performance, making an impact on me throughout his performance in the film.
  • The South African film, Five Fingers for Marseilles, was a fantastic film that moved me with it emotional storyline and picturesque cinematography. The film features actor Vuyo Dabula who portrays the character Tau, who changes the course of his life as well as his friends when he murders two policemen as an adolescent in his shanty town referred to as "the railway". Tau returns to "the railway" after years of absence to see the ones that he loves. The character Tau is not an easy role, as throughout the movie he deals with heavy emotions such as guilt and shame. I think Dabula did an incredible job portraying this character who is on the outside a feared outlaw, but has a wounded core who searches for peace. Initially, I was apprehensive about a western, a genre I am not too familiar with, but I think the emotional character relationships bring this film a universality. I applaud director and writer team Michael Matthews and Sean Drummond on a beautiful film that I highly recommend.
  • Five Fingers for Marseilles weaves together the exciting story of a South African freedom fighter named Tau (played by Vuyo Dabula). After a rescue mission goes horribly wrong, Tau disappears to start over and create a new name for himself. Years later, he returns home to find everything drastically changed. In an effort to survive, Tau must navigate his way through dangerous gangs and a corrupt police force, learning that sometimes even those closest to you don't have your best interest at heart. Five Fingers for Marseilles combines an exhilarating Western storyline and stunning landscape shots to narrate Tau's journey to confront the ghosts of his past. As someone that loved watching Western action movies with my dad, the film captivated my attention with intense fight scenes and a heart-wrenching narrative until the ending credits finished rolling. If you're searching for an intoxicating story with a surprising finish, this movie should be at the top of your list.
  • I don't think it is a good thing to say "the movie meant well". The intentions were remarkable and the goal it set was admirable. But it is one of the more positive things I can say about this, wins and nominations for whatever aside. One of the best things of the movie for sure though, is its cinematography and the landscape we get to experience.

    That alone may feel like worth your time. Then again there are nature documentaries for that. I do not want to sound to negative, because I clearly can feel what the movie was trying to do. Unfortunately the movie and its actors never reach the heights it sets out as goal. Especially some of the accents ... and having read a positive review of this were it is mentioned too ... it may throw you off. The pacing, while "consistent" is another major issue. It really starts to wear you off. Especially because the character may grab your attention for a minute or two, but never are able to hold it.

    I really wanted to like this more, but I would not be true to myself if I just said it is great just because it is different. A shorter running time and a few changes might have done wonders ... and while I do not want to step on anyones foot, maybe some cast changes too
  • Five Fingers for Marseilles is a film about a town and five friends who swear to protect it. The story follows Tau, played by Vuyo Dabula, who runs away from the problems facing the town and returns years later to find out how his absence has changed the town and the people that he used to know. With a new threat facing the town Tau must confront this problem in order to redeem himself and save those he used to hold dear. As director Michael Matthews' debut feature he has done an outstanding job with this film. Using the tropes of the western genre, the natural beauty of South Africa, and his own flare and twists he has created a fantastic start to his directorial career. It kept me entertained and intrigued the entire time and left me in a satisfied mood for the rest of the day. From the stellar performances to the beautiful cinematography this film entertained me and I highly recommend it to any fans of westerns or fans of film in general.
  • The story is a strong commentary on social and economic disparage plaguing this world. In this case a world of post-modern, rural life set in South Africa. It is a full-bodied, complex character study with heart and a hefty dose of classic spaghetti western attitude. The protagonist is a compelling, emotional character that shows all the scares and tribulations of a hard life. Scares he wears effectively on his sleeve. A very convincing performance. The antagonists and varied townsfolk are all equally convincing personals and framed nicely in the story.

    The effects are standard, well-done elements one expects in a somewhat violent tome of expressionist folderol which plays out as perfect as any 70's experimental American western. The real effects are the musical score, atmosphere and cinematography. All are exceptional. The film isn't excessively exploitative with the bloodshed or violence, so when it happens it becomes very affectational moments.Overall "Five Fingers For Marseilles" is above average for indie film making. It does move a bit slow but the pace becomes almost hypnotic in its ability to capture your attention and be entertaining.
  • This glossy South African feature exhibits stunning cinematography and locations. The concept as well is ingenious, and most of the performances appropriately portrayed. The idea f a western style movie with all the trimmings, but set in South Africa was most interesting.

    The dialogue I felt did not quite support the standard of the rest of the production value and the script lagged at times. Possibly the performances of this talented cast could have been more riveting if the dialogue was tighter. However generally the story was good enough to retain interest to the conclusion, which seems to be the general concensus of viewer reviews.

    All in all an enjoyable feature, with a powerful portrayal of the protagonist Tau who portrayed the character authentically, and one a viewer would root for. That was portrayed with the appropriate menace, an actor who similarly excelled in the SA feature Vaya.

    Definitely one to watch, particularly if you are a fan of Westerns with a difference, and a director to keep your eye on in the future.
  • Amazing Cinematography, slow build and rising tension was great. Good acting and the fact it was in Sotho really added to the atmosphere. Highly recommend this.
  • The visuals are great, the story watchable. An interesting study on how early childhood trauma can affects an individual psyche later in life, and how it affects different people in different ways/

    The lead actor delivers a powerful convincing performance, as do most of the cast, even when the story lags as it does in parts. It would have been interesting to see a little more intra and interpersonal conflict, and I feel if this had been scripted, the story would have been riveting.

    The landscape as a character is breathtaking, and supports the mood of the story beautifully. I wonder, will a sequel follow? I would certainly watch a sequel expecting this creative team to deliver an even better story!
  • ali-najafyi3 January 2021
    A localized Western wonna be ripoff. weak childish story. no development, weak typical characters, and amateur directing. The movie has nothing genuine to say. It looks like a school project, yet again, I find it hard to believe that any student would think this childish.
  • A few young kids defending against Police oppression in their shanty town, get caught up in tragedy ,when one of them kill the Police , and has to banish himself from his people and town, becomes a feared outlaw thru the years ,decides to give up that life to go home to find peace and redemption, he find his homecoming not quite what he expected , that incident that happened years ago changed the lives of those who witnessed that crime and the people who live there , his soul has not healed from his own deeds and he witness the sufferings of his loved ones, due to the corrupted law enforcement and a Gang with a maniacal leader whose hellbent on taking the town away and destroying a peaceful environment, he tries very hard to make amends and also very reluctant to defend those in need until he's pushed over the edge, I find a lot of references to the Spaghetti Western genre in this film and it works, the scenery and the acting in this film is exceptional, it's slow moving and emotional at times while being kept at the edge of your seat towards the conclusion, a sleeper western that is bound to become a Cult classic in the future.