My personal fascination with mafia movies centers on their heavy theme of family, which is central to the story behind Adam Cushman’s short film, Five Families. This theme crosses all genres, but in the mafia world, the stakes of loyalty and legacy are life and death high.
Frank (Barry Primus) is an aging associate of the Jewish mafia in Los Angeles. In the film’s opening moments, Frank is getting dressed for a meeting with fellow mafioso Benny (David Proval). Quickly glancing out the window, Frank spies three detectives standing outside his window by their unmarked vehicle.
It all comes out at the meeting with Benny. Frank’s grandson Seymour (Laurence Fuller), is in trouble. He’s gone rogue with business involving a home invasion and an execution. Benny warns Frank that this is not how they did things in the past, and it’s attracting the wrong kind of heat from the cops. Frank needs to talk to his grandson.
“…it’s attracting the wrong kind of heat from the cops. Frank needs to talk to his grandson.”
Five Families is a good setup (albeit ten minutes long) for a bigger story to tell. I’m emphasizing the word “setup.” Cushman effectively creates familiar characters and a conflict that we can relate to. The short film hits on the volatile dynamic of family and the precarious predicament Frank finds himself in regarding his own bloodline.
Upon entering adulthood, the mafia was how Frank chose to make a living and provide for his young family while compromising his morals in the process. Being an “associate” was a way to make quick money in hopes of setting his family up long term with hopes of never going into the “business.” In the case of his grandson, Seymour, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
Five Families finds its drama without the need for hits, beating, and gunplay. For a mafia film, acting is its primary medium. As Frank, Barry Primus drives the story as the family elder conflicted about his past and fearful of the future of his children and grandchildren. It’s short and sweet and effectively gets its story points across. Well worth ten quick minutes of your time.
"…finds its drama without the need for hits, beating, and gunplay."