Movie Review: ‘Top Five’ An Intelligent Comedy Bursting with Confidence & Vulnerability

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Cole Clay // Film Critic


TOP FIVE | 102 min. | Rated R | Director: Chris Rock| Stars: Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union, Kevin Hart, Romany Malco, Tracy MorganJerry Seinfeld and Whoopi Goldberg

Chris Rock is a comedian who possesses a prolific voice that has outstretched the realm of comedy and ventured into brilliant social observations (Go back and give 1999’s BIGGER & BLACKER a listen). Rock has even wrote and directed a couple of movies (HEAD OF STATE, I THINK I LOVE MY WIFE) that were several notches below mediocre. It’s been several years since Rock has re-solidified himself as an essential talent. He has spent his time making fluff with Adam Sandler and waiting in the wings for his moment to produce something worth while. TOP FIVE is personal, intelligent, and a massive leap forward for Rock as an actor and filmmaker.

In TOP FIVE, Rock stars as Andre Allen, a successful comedian and recovering alcoholic who’s at a personal and professional crossroad. He is getting married to a reality television star (Gabrielle Union) who relishes in exploiting his celebrity by featuring their impending nuptials on her show. He wrestles with the transition of becoming the star of a panned historical drama, or appeasing the slight attention span of his audience who want the troubled star to appear in a fourth installment of a cartoonish franchise titled “Hammy The Bear.”

Rosario Dawson and Chris Rock star in TOP FIVE. Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Rosario Dawson and Chris Rock star in TOP FIVE. Photo courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

Most of the film is spent walking and talking on the streets of New York with journalist Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson), who is writing a profile piece on him for The New York Times. The two spend time chatting while forming a discourse about the hardships of life and love that’s clearly attempting the rhythm of a Woody Allen picture. Rock provides superb dialogue that challenges his characters as well as the audience. The duo’s chemistry is so pronounced that the notion of Allen having a finance is a peripheral concern at best. But Allen isn’t just promoting a movie, he is providing a glimpse into what went wrong with his past and what is to come in the future.

TOP FIVE possesses an emotional transparency that is content with blurring the lines between real-life and fiction. He sits down with Charlie Rose, engages in a pseudo press-junket, and visits with famous friends that range from Jerry Seinfeld to Whoopi Goldberg. As nimble as the film is, Rock still manages to take a few steps backwards. A couple of off-shoots featuring the sexual exploits of both Allen and Brown manage to be funny, but meander into material that’s gratuitous. Rock has clearly transitioned into a filmmaker with a clear message to articulate. Let’s hope that this wasn’t just a one-off for the comedian, but something tells me that he has much more to say.

TOP FIVE opens today.

About author

Preston Barta

I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.