Revenge is a dish best served cold, says the Klingon proverb. Revenge stories abound in genre film, and none works better than the western. I am of the mindset that in film you’d better start the revenge part as soon as you can. Stories where the hero’s ordeal is a long process means that for most of the runtime you’re watching the villain winning. You have to save the final confrontation for the last bit, of course.
Five Fingers for Marseilles changes the classic western setting to the desolate Eastern Cape city of Marseilles in South Africa. Five young friends try to resist the foreign oppressors that do nothing but collect money from an impoverished town. Tau, toughest of the bunch, ends up stirring more trouble that he can handle and after the murder of two policemen, he runs away.
He comes back years later, having become a criminal known as the Lion of Marseilles but he’s not immediately recognized. His friends have each carved out something of a life, but they’re all miserable. When Tau runs into the local gangster known as The Ghost, he gets made by one of his friends. The Ghost ends up having his men beating him up and leaving him for dead.
Director Michael Matthews intentionally makes the film take its time to finally get to the point where the payback starts. I understand why, and the movie does make you doubt if there will be anybody left to stand up to the main villain at the end. When it finally happens, you don’t get the usual gunslinger taking out a whole group of baddies, but everyone getting shot at some point or another.
Recommended with reservations. Don’t expect a full out western, but there are touches here and there. The movie highlights the misery and strife that the town lives in, making it clear that nobody is fighting for glory here. It’s just scraps left behind and broken lives trying to keep on living. It is a lot less satisfying but far more realistic.
That will do for now.