'Five Fingers for Marseilles' (2017) Review

Updated on September 12, 2018
ChrisSawin profile image

Chris is a Houston Film Critics Society Member and a contributor at Bounding Into Comics, God Hates Geeks, and Slickster Magazine.

The official theatrical poster for, "Five Fingers for Marseilles."
The official theatrical poster for, "Five Fingers for Marseilles."

A Sticks-and-Slingshots Type of Uprising

After missing Five Fingers for Marseilles when it screened during Fantastic Fest in 2017, it was still highly anticipated since it has such a remarkable reputation. Directed by Michael Matthews and written by Sean Drummond (Five Fingers is the feature film debut for both), Five Fingers for Marseilles is probably the world’s first South African western film. Language in the film is said to be authentic jumping between English, Xhosa, and Sesotho. Actor Vuyo Dabula, who portrays the adult version of Tau in the film, did nearly all of his own stunts and all of the children in the film are actually local villagers who were studying to be in local theatre.

Police are corrupt in the small town of Marseilles expecting money from villagers which they do not have. Six kids band together and refer to themselves as the Five Fingers; there’s the leader Zulu, the heart and soul of the group named Lerato, the storyteller named Unathi who is constantly referred to as Pastor, the broken one named Luyanda whose nickname is Cockroach, Bongani is the wealthy one known as Pockets, and Tau is the reckless one of the group; he’s ruthless, strong, and fast but is often seen as the meanest one of the six. Together they are the five fighters of freedom.

After an incident results in the police taking Lerato away in their vehicle, Tau intervenes only to make the situation worse. He turns his back on Marseilles, his friends, and his duty as he flees without looking back. 15 years later, an adult Tau finally returns to Marseilles only to see that things have gotten worse. His friends are divided, one of them is dead, and a heartless and intimidating man rules the streets. Sepoko, known as The Ghost, and his Night Runners kill, pillage, and commit crimes as they see fit. Marseilles is even more warped and deformed than when Tau left it and it’s on the verge of total eradication unless someone intervenes.

If you’ve ever seen a film that’s taken place in South Africa, it probably hasn’t looked like this. Films like District 9 and Dredd have portrayed just how grimy and poverty-stricken run-down neighborhoods can be in that area. Marseilles is lacking financially and the people make do with what little they have, but their surroundings are gorgeous. Marseilles seems to be in the middle of the desert where their dusty isolation and lack of greenery only enhances prismatic sunrises that breathe life into snow blanketed mountain tops. In reality, the filming locations were freezing during production with Zethu Dlomo (the adult version of Lerato) nearly suffering from hypothermia in the process.

The self-proclaimed five fighters of freedom in, "Five Fingers for Marseilles."
The self-proclaimed five fighters of freedom in, "Five Fingers for Marseilles."

The characters are what make the film since you tend to find yourself wanting to know more about everyone. Unathi is the least interesting since he basically just becomes the local pastor, but he hangs on to everything from 15 years ago in order to tell an accurate story of the five fighters of freedom. Bongani becomes the mayor of Marseilles, but lets his money become his defining characteristic and hides behind it as a defense mechanism. Luyanda is now the chief of police and is still trying to rid himself of the Cockroach nickname. Lerato runs The Grey Lady, the town’s most popular tavern, with her father. She’s had a son, Sizwe, with Zulu. Tau is the most conflicted as his decision of leaving in the past has always eaten at his core. He’s been to prison and is reluctant to embrace his pride as The Lion of Marseilles. Finally there’s Sepoko whose face is two different shades and his right eye is almost completely white. He is emotionless and claims to have ripped himself from his mother’s charred flesh after she was struck by lightning while giving birth to him. His desire is to bring utter chaos to Marseilles and typically succeeds with every effort.

Five Fingers for Marseilles has this The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford quality to it where it values atmosphere and character development over action. Five Fingers doesn’t shy away from violence and even utilizes graphic and bloody sequences when necessary, but there’s more of an emphasis on the story. Five Fingers for Marseilles is like that slow-paced stroll that two gunslingers partake in with spurs jingling with each step and their palms hovering above their hip itching to reach their revolver first during an old fashioned western showdown at sundown. Director Michael Matthews and screenwriter Sean Drummond succeed in coating the audience with beautiful scenery and injecting intrigue into a ragtag rogue’s gallery loaded with characters who have selfishly committed terrible acts and yet you find yourself fascinated by each and every one of them. The slow pace benefits this type of story resulting in a stronger film that refuses to waver from its concept. Five Fingers for Marseilles holds up to other semi-recent westerns like The Proposition and Lawless, but its South African setting causes the film to distinctively stand out among similar films.

Lizwi Vilakazi as Sizwe in, "Five Fingers for Marseilles."
Lizwi Vilakazi as Sizwe in, "Five Fingers for Marseilles."
4 stars for Five Fingers for Marseilles (2017)

© 2018 Chris Sawin


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)