“… if you’re looking for a western spoof watch Blazing Saddles instead.”
Last night I watched A Fistful of Fingers which is Edgar Wright’s first feature length film that is a lampoon of the spaghetti western genre. The film follows a nameless protagonist who, in search of a pay check, is hunting down famed villain known only as “The Squint”. The hunt gets personal when The Squint has a run in with our protagonist and kills his horse; the protagonist then enlists the help of anyone who will join him, the only real member being a Native American by the name of Running Sore, and continues on his quest to bring justice to The Squint.
What surprised me most about A Fistful of Fingers was just how much of a parody this film was. I, like many others, am familiar with Edgar Wright because of his Cornetto trilogy. This series of movies (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and The World’s End) can be called parody films as they all take jabs at their respective genres, but the way they are structured make them seem like earnest attempts at film that just so happen to be poking fun at the rest of hollywood. Essentially what I’m trying to say is that these movies have jokes that don’t revolve around always pointing and laughing at other movies, and that’s what makes them so great. A Fistful of Fingers on the other hand takes the “Naked Gun” approach and lampoon’s anything and everything about the western genre. Not only was this a departure from the style that I’m used to in Wright’s films, but if I’m being honest it just wasn’t very good. I found that the jokes in A Fistful of Fingers were often very obvious and kind of juvenile. I understand that parody films aren’t exactly the pinnacle of comedy at times (take the Wayans brothers for example), but that doesn’t mean that I’m going to give every one that I watch a pass. I will admit that there were quite a few jokes that made me laugh hysterically, but unfortunately these moments were few and far between. Most of what I got out of A Fistful of Fingers was a sore neck from shaking my head so much. A big issue I have with the jokes in the film is the fact that it is so obvious they were the priority. When making a comedy you have to make sure that the stuff around the jokes is entertaining, so that when the audience isn’t laughing they are still enjoying themselves. A Fistful of Fingers completely abandons this thought and instead gives us a plot that serves all of the films jokes, instead of the other way around. The plot of A Fistful of Fingers isn’t the most complex, but because they have to stop every five minutes to make a few jokes it feels like it takes forever to get through. Now this is probably a combination of a few issues, the fact that this is an indie film with a limited budget being one of them, but I found the movie very boring for most of its runtime. I know that you could probably cut about half of it out and get a really solid parody short film, but unfortunately that wasn’t what was done. Easily the funniest part in the movie wasn’t even meant to be a joke, and that was the characters trying to pull off American accents.
Now of course no one would expect the performances in this film to be good, which is a great thing because they weren’t. I’m not going to spend time railing on any of these people because, what’s the point? Not only was this Edgar Wright’s first film, but I’m sure this movie is just a bunch of friends having fun together. It’s not like acting is an important part of parody movies, so I’ll leave it at that. One thing I did really like about A Fistful of Fingers were the gore effects. Not only was I impressed at the use of squibs (I fucking love squibs), but even the more intense stuff like the decapitation later in the film looked pretty good. I also thought the shooting effects were great too, but I was personally more impressed with the gore. One thing that kind of bothered me about the film was the portrayal of Natives. Now I’m not a bleeding heart or anything, but I do know that Natives have a tough time in movies, especially old westerns. Now was this movie trying to be offensive? I have no idea. It very well could have been making fun of how offensive the portrayal of Natives was in actual westerns. Nobody knows except for Edgar Wright. What I will say is that the jokes made at the expense of Natives were not only in bad taste, they were just bad. It’s shit that we’ve seen a thousand times before and there was nothing done to set itself apart from any of those times. Natives wear weird clothes. Natives talk weird. Natives are very good at shooting arrows. All of this shit was so obvious that you couldn’t really laugh at it. And like I said, this could be commentary on how Natives were portrayed in actual westerns (hell, that’s what I’d say if this were my movie), but in my opinion there was no indication that is what the movie was going for. I’m not offended by this, I don’t really get offended by anything, it’s just something that I wanted to bring up. To end this review on a higher note let’s talk about the direction of A Fistful of Fingers. Even in this film Edgar Wright showed a lot of promise, and the early signs of the style that he’s famous for today. The use of the frame, the quick cuts, the camera movements; all of it shows that the man behind the camera definitely has some talent.
Overall A Fistful of Fingers is not a movie that I liked, but it’s not a terrible start for a filmmaker. I found the jokes to be obvious and juvenile, but I will admit there were some that were legitimately funny. I wasn’t a fan of the acting or the portrayal of Natives, but I did like the gore effects and the direction. Really there are pros and cons to this movie, but the main takeaway is that I found it boring. The plot seemed to slam on the brakes whenever there was an opportunity for a joke, and I wasn’t a fan of that. If you are a fan of Edgar Wright I would check it out, if only to see where he got his start, but if you’re looking for a western spoof watch Blazing Saddles instead.
I give A Fistful of Fingers a C