John Diaz, James “Primo” Grant
They say that the sins of the father are visited upon the son, but in Five Star, from filmmaker, Keith Miller (Welcome To Pine Hill), it all depends on who is looking out for you. John (John Diaz) is a wiry teenager living in East New York with his mother. His father, a member of the infamous Bloods, has recently passed away, and it looks like John is keen to step into his father’s shoes. Enter Primo, played by real life gang member James “Primo” Grant, who offers to guide John in honour of his late father.
In a film about gang culture, there’s always the potential to drown in violence, which is where Miller’s film tries to differentiate itself. This is by no means a sugar-coated portrait of life on the streets, but Miller chooses to have the violence veiled; either happening off screen or hidden by onlookers.
There is mystery surrounding the death of John’s Father, but Five Star is more about following these two men as they make and reflect on life choices. Away from the scrutiny of others, Primo is shown to be a strong family man, with a partner and several children, all played by Primo’s real family. He cooks, he cleans, he prays, and he’s far removed from the perception that others have of him, including John. Primo may live the life for too long to change, but he’s still going to do right by those he loves. Meanwhile, motor mouth John, for all his bravado, is still a kid living with his mum and trying to get girls to like him. Is he really cut out for the life he wants? The film offers no easy answers, but its lead performances make this worth pursuing.