REVIEW: TOP FIVE
SYNOPSIS: Pulsing with the rhythm of his greatest stand-up, Chris Rock’s TOP FIVE takes things to the next level, reveling in the high and the low, and blending a star-studded comedic romp with an irresistible romance. TOP FIVE digs under the surface of show business, politics, rap, and the exigencies of being black and famous today—holding it all up to the light in the way only Chris Rock can. Mingling echoes of Woody Allen and Dick Gregory with the energy of Kanye West and Jay Z, TOP FIVE is an original and radically new kind of American movie.
I Chris Rock (Grown Ups 1&2, 2013) is making a comeback seemingly to show the world that he’s more than just a “has-been” standup comedian in this latest effort. Unsurprisingly, he wrote, directed and stars as the lead whose character seems to mirror his own current life challenges (as one can imagine). In some odd ways, it could be described as art imitating life in many aspects of the one hundred and two minute play time.
The mix of humor and real life drama is probably a bit of a stretch, considering some of Rock’s more recent work, but somehow it works well overall. The chemistry between Rosario Dawson of 2014’s “Sin City: A Dame to Kill For” and Rock is surprisingly sweet and the flick turns out to be pretty funny and raunchy thanks to the supporting cast that surrounds Rock. There is J.B. Smoove (A Haunted House, 2013), Tracy Morgan (The Boxtrolls, 2014) and a scene stealing Cedric the Entertainer (A Haunted House, 2013) as club promoter in Houston providing some added filthy and hilarious moments along the way. There are also a couple of celebrity cameos that provide some good laughs, but I won’t name for the sake of spoilers.
Needless to say, Chris Rock has never been a “great" actor, but like fellow comedians Louis C.K (Saturday Night Live, 2014) and Larry David (Curb Your Enthusiasm, 2000-11); he’s finally discovered that the trick is to make it so you hardly have to act at all.
Even though Top Five gets a little cliché near the end, I still enjoyed the movie for the most part. There are lots of “laugh out loud” moments to be had and hard-core fans of Rock should appreciate this flick tremendously. Rock gives an all-around good performance both in front and behind the camera and is arguably one of the best of his career.
Overall, the movie’s plot leans toward a sorta’ rom-com conventionality as it brings the story together (with a twist that one could see coming from a mile away). However, up until then, it’s more of a loose, engaging walk-and-talk New York style, something like Sex and the City meets any Seinfeld episode, energized by interjections of lots of hip-hop references. (The movie’s title is a reference to Rock’s character and his siblings’ fondness for ranking their favorite rappers.) After all is said and done, Chris Rock proves that for truly hilarious people funny always finds a way, whether they’re feeling it or not. One of the lines in the flick goes “Please lower your expectations,” however, as a filmmaker; I think Chris Rock has just raised ours.
Four out of five stars is probably giving this flick a free pass, but I did find the funny parts extremely funny. It is not an Oscar winner by any stretch of the imagination, but it is worth the viewing, preferably in the comforts of home with family and friends.
By Movi-Man Stan
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