Written by: Edgar Wright
Starring: Graham Low, Oli van der Vijver, Nicola Stapleton, Martin Curtis, Jeremy Beadle
Polished professional filmmakers who love cinema to its core always serve as inspirational figures when they prove they can make something with almost nothing. It shows the bare bones of what can be done on a story level and expresses exactly what will make them a hit when receiving the proper budget. A Fistful of Fingers represents this very notion for Edgar Wright and while what he creates in his feature debut cannot be classified as good, the seeds of his eventual greatness shine bright.
Following the murder of his horse, No-Name (Graham Low) seeks revenge on the man who did the deed. He will ensure to stop at no cost in order to bring justice and must utilize his skills with the pistol to get out of sticky situations.
Serving as Edgar Wright’s feature directorial debut, A Fistful of Fingers looks very different from his other works seeing as he made it while in school. This alone serves as an impressive achievement and while it struggles in moments, the bits of comedy in the feature and how he manages to do plenty with so little establishes what will make him such a strong filmmaker. Going by the title, you can easily tell it heavily uses Sergio Leone’s A Fistful of Dollars as an inspiration from the look of No-Name and the gun-wielding abilities he establishes in the feature. It almost serves as a spoof film in its attempt to also be like Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
The small budget of the feature becomes quite apparent from the beginning with the picture quality, sets, and actors involved. It has the feel of Wright just gathering his friends to put this together, which serves as quite an inspiration to anyone hoping to start their way in the moviemaking sphere. With the small budget in mind, Wright tries to utilize similar comedic strokes to Monty Python as the minuscule money allotment for the project becomes part of the joke. This certainly makes itself clear with No-Name’s horse and how he rides it. Wright certainly goes for it with the comedy and for the most part, it works.
Some elements certainly don’t work including its pacing issues where it could be trimmed even with it being right on the line of qualifying as a feature rather than a short. At times the film tends to drag thus leaving us wanting things to carry on. Some character portrayals do raise some eyebrows including having a character try to look like an indigenous person. It became difficult to distinguish the exact joke being made with the skin painting but the intentionality certainly goes to make fun of the whole idea of a white man portraying this kind of role solely by the inconsistency in skin color. Tasteless perhaps and any criticism of it certainly remains warranted.
Influenced by Leone’s Spaghetti Western, Wright uses many of the tactics utilized in those features to add drama, including his action sequences. The way he films the shooting scenes took quite an inventive idea and the way he pulls it off does deserve recognition. Even if it appears goofy at times, when looking at the resources available, it looks better than some modern action movies. It allows No-Name to build his reputation much like the Man with No Name Clint Eastwood portrayed when teaming up with Leone.
Watching this feature nearly eradicates all excuses for what people can accomplish by picking up their phone and going to make movies. Sure, Wright had some semblance of a budget for the costumes and props utilized when filming but the camera quality we have in our hands today vastly beats out what he used when making this feature. It takes an idea, even if borrowed from an older film as displayed in this particular one, to go out there and experiment with the art form.
Most certainly will remain at the very bottom of his filmography in regard to quality but still something to admire just for the sake of effort put into crafting it, A Fistful of Fingers provides several moments to enjoy. Many will make you cringe but it allows us to take a look at an ambitious start to a filmmaker who will eventually take bigger budgets and make extraordinary works. Simply the beginning and one to seek out if you want to be an Edgar Wright completionist.