Friday, December 12, 2014


Top Five

Top Five official site Without doubt, Chris Rock is one of the funniest comedians today. His jokes are fierce, witty, socially relevant, and sometimes offensive. However, he has not been content by doing what he does the best—being a stand-up comedian. Instead, he has been flirting with the notion to be an earnest filmmaker and already directed two forgettable comedies "Head of State" (2003) and "I Think I Love My Wife" (2006). Would the third time be a charm? Apparently, despite the fundamental flaw in the story's setup, the writer/director/actor Chris Rock makes an impressive stride in his latest dramady "Top Five" (USA 2014 | 101 min.). He blends the reality and fiction together and creates a protagonist that is sometimes hard to be distinguished from the filmmaker himself. With his star power, he assembles an impressive group of fellow comedians to help him telling a story about an actor who is stuck at a crossroad in his career.

Introduced by Charlie Rose as the funniest man in America, comedian Andre Allen (Chris Rock) is a recovering alcoholic who is famous for playing a character called Hammy, a cop in a bear costume. Looking for a breakthrough in his career, he makes a new ridiculous movie about Haitian slave's rebellion.

During a publicity tour before the movie's opening, hilariously persuaded by his agent (Kevin Hart), Andre agrees to an interview by a reporter, Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson) for a profile story in The New York Times.

Perhaps due to the fact that Chelsea is also a recovering alcoholic, during the period of one day, Andre and Chelsea quickly click and are able to make deeper connections while walking around the cinematic streets of New York City and flashing back to Andre's wild days in the past.

The "interview" is constantly interrupted by the Andre's superficial and demanding reality-star fiancé Erica Long (Gabrielle Union) who is preparing their wedding as a live event on the TV network Bravo. Meanwhile, Chelsea spills the beans to Andre about her ambiguous and unfaithful boyfriend Brad (Anders Holm) as a comic relief.

Top Five Official Site

Being a work by Chris Rock, the film is expected to be funny, if not funnier. Some jokes in the film are smart and laugh-out funny, and some are over-the-top and raunchy. The film certainly has plenty amusing or surprising moments, but it's not a brainless slapstick farce.

Often shot in a documentary style and use actors' real name in the movie, the film essentially is crafted as a drama and puts the characters before the jokes. However, that would work better if the story were set on a solid foundation.

The truth is that if Chelsea were indeed a reporter from The New York Times in real life, she would have been fired right on the spot. Chelsea's job is to interview her subject, Andre. Yet, she not only lets Andre turn the table around and dig stories about her past, but also she gets involved with her subject romantically. No matter how long they walk and talk on the streets, these two characters are nothing like Celine and Jesse in Richard Linklater's "Before Sunrise" (1995). It's perplexing how they can hit off so quickly, and in New York City, not in Vienna. Yet, their relationship is crucial to the character development.

One the best moments in the film is when Andre performs a standup gig at a comedy club. You can immediately tell how Chris Rock feels at ease in his most familiar territory. That might indicate which direction the green light has been turned on at a crossroad.

"Top Five," a Paramount Pictures release, opens on Friday December 12, 2014.

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