Rome wasn’t built in a day, and according to writer/director Keith Miller’s Five Star, neither is getting into a gang. While using non-actors in a film can typically be a major success or massive fail, it certainly helps to have its main character, Primo (James Grant), a real Blood gang member both in and out of the movie. In this film, the authenticity of the non-actors’ work and the camera’s ever roving eye make for a unique take on crime genre films that soars.
John (John Diaz) lost his father recently to a stray bullet, or at least that’s what everyone says. His father was a well respected gang member in his New York community. His protege, Primo, takes John under his wing out of respect for John’s father and as a chance to help mold John. As Primo shows John the ropes, he makes it quite clear that if he decides to follow in his father’s footsteps the line between being a boy and being a man (gang life) is one that you can’t run back behind. As John witness the power and confidence of Primo, he is also seduced by the lure of quick cash.
As the film moves forward, two stories unfold. We get a glimpse at Primo the Five Star leader of the community gangs, who rules with an iron fist and draws respect from fear. We also see Primo the father. It is in between this dichotomy that we see both strength and vulnerability in Primo. Day-to-day moments like cooking food for the family or simply telling his daughter to behave juxtapose with brutally beating someone for not having his money, creating a character that you can both love and hate. At the same time you see John in his daily life. Who in essence is just a teenage kid with a girlfriend, a widowed mother he wants to take care of, struggling with the impact of not knowing his father except through second hand accounts.
The beautiful day-to-day moments don’t just take place with Primo, but with other characters in the film as well. For instance, as John takes steps closer to gang life, he and his mother (Wanda Nobles Colon) have what feels like an unscripted conversation about why she doesn’t want her son to follow in his father’s footsteps. The conversation is so genuine that the film feels more like a documentary than a narrative feature.
Keith Miller lets scenes play out and breathe, putting the handheld camera to use to create a documentary feel. He captures things not typically on screen in crime films, but are apart of the complexity of living a dangerous life, and perhaps life in general. Miller edits the film as well, and it’s top notch. With aural intros, the scenes blend together and push the story forward at a purposeful pace that leads its viewer. Miller allows you to get caught up in the little moments of the character’s lives, building up to a pins and needles climax.
Five Star is a worthy indie intro in the crime genre. It slowly builds, and snowballs, into an earned pay off. Five Star is out on DVD September 1st and is definitely worth the view!