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


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

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.