TOP FIVE (USA/16/102mins)
Directed by Chris Rock. Starring Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Kevin Hart, Tracey Morgan, Gabrielle Union.
THE PLOT: Comedian Andre Allen (Chris Rock) is struggling with the transition to serious movie star, and his upcoming reality show wedding. When journalist Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson) spends a day with him to write an article about him, Allen finds himself realising some truths about himself and the world he has constructed for himself.
THE VERDICT: It feels like a long time since we have had a Chris Rock movie – in reality it has only been two years since GROWN UPS 2 – so for the actor to return as writer, director and star of TOP FIVE feels like a full on assault on audiences, but the good news is that TOP FIVE is sweet, funny and warm.
Rock does well as the lead actor here, perhaps playing a version of himself to an extent. Rock is funny and honest, and his chemistry with Rosario Dawson is a joy to watch on screen. Dawson’s performance is unshowey and again, feels honest and warm. The supporting cast is full of recognisable faces, including Tracey Morgan, Kevin Hart, Whoopi Goldberg, Adam Sandler, Jerry Sienfeld, JB Smoove, Gabrielle Union and Cedric the Entertainer. Most of these performances are small comic roles, but they work well and bring a sense of community and warmth to the film.
Chris Rock’s screenplay focuses on the conversations between Andre and Chelsea, and although the two start of frosty, this soon gives way to honest conversation between the two. The story is rather simple, and perhaps a little familiar, but the dialogue is what keeps the film moving. There are times, however, when it feels as though there is almost too much crammed in to one day, but this is obviously done for the sake of storytelling, and for the characters to evolve on screen, and can be forgiven.
As director, Rock seems to have taken a leaf out of Richard Linklater’s book, giving TOP FIVE a BEFORE SUNRISE sort of vibe. This is a welcome change to many of the romantic comedies of late. It also gives the film a chance to celebrate New York City for all it’s idiosyncrasies. There are times when the pacing struggles, but the film recovers from these just in time for TOP FIVE to have a rather convenient but heart warming ending.
In all, TOP FIVE is a surprisingly honest and sweet film about two people getting to know one another. Some of the plot is a little familiar, the pacing suffers from time to time, and the film is not quite as funny as it thinks it is, but TOP FIVE is a delightful surprise and return to form for Chris Rock.
Review by Brogen Hayes

Top Five
Review by Brogen Hayes
4.0A delightful surprise
  • filmbuff2011

    Turning to directing for the third time, multi-hyphenate Chris Rock’s new film Top Five takes a cautious look at the merciless world of showbiz. Andre (Rock) is an actor who has had a string of hits with a very silly-looking franchise called Hammy The Bear. Desperate to be taken as a serious actor, he has a new film about a Haitian uprising opening. About to get married to a narcissistic reality TV star in a few days, he’s in New York to promote the film. He agrees to have New York Times journalist Chelsea (Rosario Dawson) tail him for the day for what initially seems like a celebrity puff piece. But Chelsea is more interested in getting to know Andre the man, rather than Andre the stand-up comedian turned actor. As they travel across town and meet various characters in each other’s lives, some revelations will come forth, and not just from Andre’s side… Top Five features a main character that is a thinly-disguised version of Rock himself. It’s amusing to watch Rock poke fun at his own career. When was the last time he was funny? 2 Days In New York perhaps. The film begins promisingly, with immediate spark and chemistry between Rock and Dawson. They’re a joy to watch, as they trade banter and intimate moments to the point where you wonder if their characters might actually get together. Sadly, the film falls completely apart whenever they’re not onscreen together – which is for a good portion of the film. Other characters drift in and out of the film without any real purpose, adding nothing to scenes or progressing the story. Flashbacks to awkward sexual encounters are overly crude and seem bizarre and puzzling to these non-American eyes. Something was definitely lost in the journey across the Atlantic. While Top Five does have its moments, unfortunately there aren’t enough of them. A good film has been lost amid a ramshackle structure and poor acting from everyone except Rock and Dawson. Unlikely to be in the Top Five films at the box office this week, and even more unlikely to be in the Top Five films of the year. **

  • Martin

    Chris rock writes, directs and stars in this comedy. It’s very slow at the start with not many laughs. The last 30 mins were the films best and if the whole film was on the same level as the last half hour it would have been great. But how many times have we said that about comedies. Not a bad try though and it’s definitely worth a watch.