Five Fingers for Marseilles (NR)

Western 120 min. September 7, 2018
By Jordan Hoffman
One Thanksgiving, I loaded my plate with so much stuffing, potatoes and cranberry sauce I had no room left for any turkey. I thought of this an hour into Five Fingers for Marseilles when I realized this was a movie brimming with sides but without any meat.

The location cinematography — a Western shot in the north of South Africa's Eastern Cape — is extraordinary, and first-time director Michael Matthews takes full advantage of cliffs, big skies and apparently frequent electrical storms. He fits his cast in a series of badass dusty costumes, shoots them with short lenses in color-saturated vistas and has them speak slowly enough to make Nicolas Winding Refn wince. Each moment oozes cool. It's just that there's hardly a story to speak of.

After a prologue in which a group of teens defend themselves from corrupt cops, we jump 15 years. Apartheid is over but the remote villages are still struggling. Tau (Vuyo Dabula) has returned from prison, and doesn't want trouble. But who will stand up for what's right if not he?

Five Fingers for Marseilles slowly makes its way to the big Sergio Leone–esque shootout (by way of The Cars That Ate Paris–era Peter Weir) as righteous members of the town rise up against the evocatively dressed goons. There isn't a single shot in this movie that fails to look stylish, but the rote scenario and glacial pace make it difficult to connect to the picture in an emotional way. Nice trimmings don’t make a meal.
Michael Matthews Zethu Dlomo, Garth Breytenbach, Kenneth Fok, Kenneth Nkosi, Anthony Oseyemi, Vuyo Dabula, Jerry Mofokeng, Brendon Daniels, Mduduzi Mabaso, Lizwi Vilakazi Sean Drummond Michael Matthews, Sean Drummond Uncork'd Entertainment

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