The Five Rules of Success Image

The Five Rules of Success

By Kate Beacom | October 18, 2021

Writer/director Orson Oblowitz’s The Five Rules of Success immediately draws you in with a long tracking shot following X (Santiago Sagura) as he is released from prison. He situates himself in a small apartment, looks for work, and meets with his parole officer, Emma (Isidora Goreshter), who lays the hard truth on him: if he steps one toe out of line, he’s back in prison. The story is a classic fresh-out-of-jail tale, where the main character is faced with life’s difficulties after incarceration.

X once again becomes drawn into the tempting world of crime after making a friend in his new co-worker Danny (Jonathan Howard). While alone in his apartment, X records himself spouting motivational catchphrases. When he sleeps, he has vivid dreams, which tease the horrific reason he was imprisoned in the first place. The dream sequences, flashbacks, and montages are all deftly edited.

Oblowitz has helmed a visually impressive title. It features Super 8 film, beautiful framing, vibrant colors, and very impressive production design. The use of wide angles and the aspect ratio enhance the off-kilter feeling of the protagonist’s new life on the outside. The Five Rules of Success is Oblowitz’s third feature since 2017, but the first he photographed himself. It’s easy to see Oblowitz’s vision, and he has successfully transferred it to the screen in sumptuous beauty.

“X once again becomes drawn into the tempting world of crime…”

The only part of the film that feels off is the way the story’s framed within the five rules. It is a crime movie for sure, but it’s not the hardcore action flick the graphics imply. As a result, it felt somewhat out of step with the rest of the movie, which feels more artful. While minor, it does stick out and might irk a few viewers hoping for a different kind of film.

Sagura’s performance is an excellent center for which the action to revolve around. He never gives too much and keeps a lot of mystery around his aptly named character in the air for much of the runtime. Plus, it’s a lot of fun to see Goreshter in her role, which goes a bit against type for the actor. I love her as Svetlana on Shameless and enjoy her natural performance here on the other side of the law.

The Five Rules of Success looks much bigger and bolder than its budget and features two outstanding lead performances. For those elements alone, it is worth watching. While there’s a minor nitpick here or there, Oblowitz proves his value as a filmmaker and will keep audiences engrossed throughout the entire runtime.

The Five Rules of Success (2021)

Directed and Written: Orson Oblowitz

Starring: Santiago Sagura, Isidora Goreshter, Jon Sklaroff, Jonathan Howard, etc.

Movie score: 8/10

The Five Rules of Success Image

"…beautiful framing, vibrant colors, and very impressive production design."

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