Top Five, 2014.
Directed by Chris Rock
Starring Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union, Cedric The Entertainer, Tracy Morgan, J.B Smoove, Kevin Hart, Adam Sandler, Jerry Seinfeld and Whoopi Goldberg.
A comedian tries to make it as a serious actor when his reality-TV star fiancée talks him into broadcasting their wedding on her TV show.
Here’s an interesting note about my screening for Top Five that perfectly segues into the themes of the raunchy comedy: 30 minutes before the show begins a radio host conducts a number of competitions for the audience, ranging from dance-offs to trivia. All of this is in preparation for the film’s introduction by Chris Rock live in person. For me, it was one of the most entertaining and involving advanced screenings I’ve been a part of, but for Chris Rock it’s something he is doing three-five times a day. It is just publicity for another movie.
Top Five (written by, directed by, and starring Chris Rock) is a film much smarter and stimulating than its adverts might make it appear, and is determined to tackle issues such as the ups and downs of celebrity fame head-on. Portraying a character named Andre Allen (although in reality the lines between movie character and real-life actor are blurred), Chris Rock bleeds many elements of his stand-up comedy routine into a person that is simply sick and tired of being famous for lowbrow pandering slapstick comedy. Andre wants to break into more serious filmmaking, which is something that could reflect the desires of the actual Chris Rock.
Conversations can be had all day about where Andre Allen and Chris Rock meet and end, but Top Five has much more to offer. Saddled with a journalist (Rosario Dawson) following him around New York City for an entire day as an interview to promote his reality TV wedding under the guise of covering his Oscar-baity slave rebellion film gone wrong, we encounter a host of characters and attain a somewhat clearer grasp of how being famous can sometimes be frankly horrifying.
It’s not a spoiler by any means, but one scene that sticks out is Andre encountering a group of older people from around his childhood neighborhood that flat-out berate him for being successful and popular, until he willingly gives them a nice wad of cash. All of a sudden his “fans” quickly change their tune, and you can’t help but wonder how many people are really like that. Whether it’s coming from jealousy or not, it’s absolutely hilarious how quick of a 180 public perception of you can change when you hand out some money.
The meat of the film undoubtedly comes from the banter and dialogue exchanges from Chris Rock and Rosario Dawson, as together they walk the streets of New York contemplating and debating all sorts of things from relationships, to journalistic integrity, to pinpointing just who Andre Allen is deep down. Without the camaraderie and excellent chemistry they share together, Top Five wouldn’t be the success that it is.
As previously mentioned, Chris Rock also brings in a bevy of well-known friends to get lost in the picture with him. Stand-outs include Kevin Hart playing a movie studio agent, Cedric The Entertainer (his segment just needs to be experienced for yourself), surprise appearances from rappers, and a bachelor party scene where holy shit on a stick, Adam Sandler is funny for the first time since I graduated high school. Furthermore, everyone involved keeps the palpable energy rolling and the laughs hitting hard and often.
As far as the actual tone of the comedy, Top Five is a tight rope balancing act between sexual content that will gross you out beyond belief yet leave you laughing, and a mature sense of hard-hitting social commentary that we’ve always known Chris Rock to be capable of, but something that has never really come across in his films. Admittedly, it does rely on some stereotypical jabs at African-American culture occasionally (is watching black people eat chicken really funny in 2014) but for the most part, all of the jokes connect. There are multiple scenes in particular that I know for a fact I will never forget.
Surprisingly, Top Five also manages to halfway subvert clichés of the romantic comedy genre. Sure, a good portion of the core story is fairly predictable, but the actual ending is something ambiguous. As a whole, Top Five is a new career-high for comedian Chris Rock; a film so funny and smart I honestly didn’t think he could pull it off. And let’s be realistic, where the fuck else are you going to see Jerry Seinfeld make it rain hundred dollar bills on strippers?
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. He currently writes for Flickering Myth, We Got This Covered, and Wrestle Enigma. Follow me on Twitter.