By Connor Frankenberger (British Columbia, Canada)
Top Five, starring Chris Rock and Rosario Dawson, sees Chris Rock writing, starring in, and directing what appears to be a passion project he has wanted to do for a very long time. Playing second fiddle in an endless stream of terrible Adam Sandler movies seems to have sparked Rock to finally find his own groove again. After years of under using the vast amount of talent he has, Top Five is finally the vehicle Chris Rock needed to break free and unleash the comedic prowess that made him famous all those years ago; a vehicle only he himself could have constructed.
Chris Rock’s Andre Allen is taking a gamble with his career, veering off of his well-worn comedic path into what is sure to be a disastrous turn to serious film making in the form of his B-movie version of 12 Years a Slave. He also has a chronic drinking problem, an upcoming reality TV marriage, and a giant ego. Yes, he’s essentially Lindsey Lohan, the Kardashians and Kanye West all rolled into one, but he’s certainly not without his charm. When he finally accepts an interview with the New York Times to dig deep into the inner mechanisms of his life, we as the audience brace ourselves for a fascinating adventure into the harsh realities of the entertainment business and inside the mind of a comedian who is feeling anything but comedic.
While Rock’s performance alone is the perfect match to his very edgy script, it’s his chemistry and effortless back and forth with Rosario Dawson that really is the heart of this movie. They are often talking through very long camera takes at a time, demonstrating a great rapport and comfort with each other. Their character relationship take us through a series of raunchy, wild flashbacks that really toe the line of potentially being overly crude, but generate enough laughs keep us a heartbeat away from cringing in horror.
The overall plot follows a fairly predictable trajectory, but it’s peppered with touching and memorable moments, some excellent cracks at the entertainment industry and a brilliant Kevin Hart cameo that all keep the movie vibrantly engaging and fresh. We can only hope that Rock will follow the advice of his own real life parallels he shows in the film by continuing to make quality comedic movies that are more than just a pay check role. He can start by turning down Grown Ups 3.
FINAL VERDICT: Chris Rock’s insightful and witty script, as well as effortless chemistry with Rosario Dawson lifts a somewhat basic plot structure to new comedic heights in what is hopefully the start of his film career comeback.