Reviews | Written by Martin Unsworth 02/08/2021


Everybody dies. Not everybody lives.” Just one of the things keeping X (Santiago Segura) on the straight and narrow as he’s on parole. He’s determined to make something of himself after being branded a thug, even though the act of violence that landed him in jail isn’t what we’d expect. His parole officer Emma (Isidora Goreshter) lays the law down with firm authority and makes it clear she doesn’t hold up much hope for him. Her attitude is he’ll either be back in prison or dead. X, however, has a five-step plan to prove her wrong. But with everything mounted against him, what chance does he have? He’s given a chance to work as a delivery boy for a Greek restaurant, and soon earns the trust of the owner, Avakian (Jon Sklaroff). He’s invited into his home, and befriends his wayward son Danny (Jonathan Howard), who works in the restaurant’s kitchen and has a wild side that could lead X astray. X has a goal - as well as staying out of prison - to open his own restaurant. Money and time are not on his side, though, but there are shortcuts for the latter. Written, directed, and photographed by Orson Oblowitz, The Five Rules of Success is a skewed look at the American dream, seen from the part of society that is perceived to only get somewhere by illicit means. The hard work and time that Avakian recommends to build a business aren’t required if you have the right skin colour and accent, can pull the right strings, and play the dirty game that opens the doors for the privileged. It’s a beautifully shot film, even if some of the visuals are ugly. We can’t help but get behind X; the odds are so stacked against him from the start that he can’t help but be brought off the path. Even the people meant to be in authority are inappropriate and lawless. The Five Rules of Success presents a dazzlingly portrayal of how one moment in a life can have a lifetime of consequences, and sometimes, no matter how hard you try, the world won’t let you forget what you have been branded. Santiago Segura provides a powerhouse performance that in a bigger budgeted film would have been award-worthy. Oblowitz’s film is not an easy ride, but then neither is life.   The Five Rules of Success is out now in the US.