If the trajectory, and quality, of the urban dramas from the 90s continued into the 00s, and then into the 10s, Five Star would be one of the many classics showing that the complexity of the hood goes beyond gang violence and can include the topic of masculinity, love, and what a person’s absence can do to you.
Characters & Story
John (John Diaz) is a young man without a father. Why? Well, because a stray bullet hit his father’s skull and killed him. But while his dad may not be around, he got his mom (Wanda Nobles Colon), his girl Jasmin (Jasmine Burgos), and this man named Primo (James ‘Primo’ Grant) who wants to step in and be a father figure. In fact, Primo sets things up so if John wishes to walk in his father’s footsteps, and be part of the drug game, he can. Thus leading to a story dealing with the complexity of a Five Star General of the Bloods who is just as much a man who would kill someone as he would tickle his son; a story dealing with a young man who never knew his father, for he was more about that street life than that home life, and how his father’s decision left a void; and those two stories coming together in such a way which leads to the type of respect, or ending, you may not expect.
Like many people, especially those who grew up in an urban environment, movies like these were in constant rotation. For whether it was Belly, New Jack City, Jason’s Lyric, or Paid In Full, there were what your older brother, father, cousin, and etc would watch. However, one thing missing in a lot of those movies that this film has is a complex male figure.
Primo is just as much of a gangster as all the figures those who love 90s urban dramas are familiar with. He is the type to knock someone out for disrespecting him, get his goons to handle some work he doesn’t feel worthy of his time, and he has that type of presence which makes the idea of him going to the park with his kids seem foreign. But that is what makes Primo interesting. For, from the beginning, we see he is a true family man. I mean, the dude cries about missing his son’s birth. Which to me is so powerful since it shows this man is more than whatever street life he came up in. He is a fully developed character who may do bad things, but ultimately it is for his family. Something, I feel, has largely been reserved for Italian mob type movies.
Switching characters and speaking on John, what I liked about John is that his story had all the appeal of what you’d want in a series. His point of view of being a kid who had an absentee father, who was some sort of Blood general, but now is a dead man, is interesting. Especially since it seems he largely was protected from that, but now has a serious opportunity to start doing runs, and maybe move up within the hierarchy. Though I would be remiss and not say that part of John’s appeal didn’t deal with his scenes with his mother and Jasmin.
When it came to his relationship with his mom, Colon came off so authentic that it was hard to imagine what was maybe her possibly adlibbing or Keith Miller’s script. Plus, even with her not having a huge part in the grand scheme of things, again you are given that feeling that this film should have been a series so that she could expand on her and Melvin’s, John’s dad, life.
Leaving John’s relationship with Jasmin, something so cute that it was hard not to get a little googley eyed during their scenes. For their relationship just seemed so normal to me. It wasn’t about John meeting her one day, them hanging out a few times, and then he suddenly is in between her thighs. No. They come off like a couple who are young, in love but got their own lives going on at the same time. As can be seen by the fact that she isn’t solely hanging out with him, and mentions her dreams and aspirations.
Perhaps my main issue with this film is that it handles John in such a peculiar way. Like, recognizing that John may not have been close to his dad, you’d think with his dad being as big as he was, more people would know John. For, to me, it almost seems like John is a nobody until Primo vouches for him and then says something like “and you know that is Mel’s kid right?” Which, again, just seems off for with Melvin being talked about like he was the boss, with Primo being a slightly lesser equal, and Mel not being talked about as some dude who slept around, had mad kids, but as a loving husband who couldn’t do as Primo and balance his street life with his home life, it just made me question how John’s story, from beginning to end, was handled.
Overall: Worth Seeing
This movie is so good I’m placing it on the recommendation list, and let me tell you why: It’s because the film is deeply rooted in an urban environment, but is doing more to humanize those who live in the environment than many of the movies which came before, or the TV shows out there now which feature characters who aren’t living in suburbia. Which to me is powerful for, even with shows like Empire out there, we are witnessing them mostly post getting out of the hood; and while, yes, they may still maintain a hood mentality, there is just something about not featuring any characters trying to adapt to appease a white stare and just being their authentic self, and deal with the various issues of their life and environment, without it being made sensationalized or comical.
“Don’t try to fight for something so hard, you might get answers you don’t wanna know.”
— Five Star