Movie Review: ‘Five Star’ Might Be The Scariest Mob Movie Of Them All

Review by Tom Swift

A kitchen table gangster film, Indie film Five Star might be the scariest mob movie of them all.
Set in east New York within well-kept housing developments, Five Star dramatize the lifestyle of a gang leader, his wife and kids, and the orphaned son of the gang leader’s dead best friend. The gang leader recruits that son for his supposed own good. The poverty here is not of the street, but of the soul.

Operating on a family centered emotional level and almost free of gunplay, Five Star follows the path that Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawk took in Training Day — one where an older cop tries to turn a younger cop dirty.

But this film is much scarier – because you always felt Ethan Hawk had somewhere else to go, and here there seems to be nowhere else to go but a life of crime. And in an equally devastating way, the gang leader here acts as the good cop in the neighborhood – bringing order where Denzel brought chaos.

You’ll squirm with the same sense of entrapment you got while watching Copolla’ sThe Godfather. There you felt Michael Corleone would like to lead a crime free life, but inexorably became bound up as a messenger boy and enforcer for the Don – because of his father’s secrets.

That blind justice take animates the life of thirty- something Primo. A huge bearded black man with abundant tattoos, Primo opens the film lamenting that he was in prison when his son was born. He’s a family man: tenderly taking care of that son and his little girls. Primo even has an evolved, gender bending relationship with his wife. He’s admirable at home, and he tries to bring his righteousness to the streets. Really?

John is the teenage son of Primo’s dead best friend and fellow gang capo – who was “accidentally “gun downed. Primo believes he is rescuing John and offers him respect – for a price. A little drug running is all he asks – that and eternal loyalty. As a character, John is as emotionally involving as Michael Corleone or Skeet Ulrich – as John has a first kiss with his girlfriend or gets the family secrets out of his loving, but unwilling, mom. As a character, Primo also keeps pace with Denzell as well.

Five Star, nevertheless, might just be a mob movie too real for its own good. It’s supposedly a mix of fact and fiction, but where one begins and another ends is anyone’s guess. The Godfather always felt like fantasy; this feels like reality just a couple blocks away.

Five Star looks good, acts well, and has a cliff hanger of a last act. You’ll be on the edge of your seat – because you like but don’t trust John; and you like but do trust Primo. But trust him to do exactly what? The script should be commended for characters – not automatic gun play. Five Star leaves you worried about t body count – even in our blood soaked world.

FIVE STAR in Theaters on July 24th and on VOD and iTunes on August 4th.

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