Chris Rock Delivers The Comedy Of The Year With Top Five.
Director: Chris Rock.
Writers: Chris Rock.
Cast: Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union, JB Smoove.
Playing At: Wide.
Ferociously funny and refreshingly honest, Top Five shows up late to the party in 2014 — and it still leaves as the year's best comedy.
Better yet: Beyond featuring virtually every African-American actor aside from Denzel Washington and Morgan Freeman, the blistering, fully Chris Rock-helmed comedy also has surprising depth.
Here, Rock plays Andre Allen, a former stand-up who hit it big with a series of poorly received but wildly successful action-comedies — films in which he played a machine gun-toting bear named Hammy. But now, anxious to promote his “serious turn” in a disastrously overblown take on the Haitian Revolution called Uprize, Allen has vowed to stop doing funny movies.
In New York to do press for Uprize — which needs all the help it can get — Allen eventually lets down his guard to reporter Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson), who spends the day with him as he preps for his upcoming wedding to reality star Erica (Gabrielle Union). Free of all the typical questions (“Were you the class clown in school?” and “When will you do Hammy 4?” among them), Allen lets his incomparable wit fly in all directions. In the process, he builds a rapport with Chelsea that no one else in his life can match.
Turns out she's the only one willing to call him on his bullshit.
With Top Five, Rock is delivering his absolute best — as an actor, as a writer and as a director. He's certainly done fine work in front of and behind the camera in the past. But nothing else has been this focused, this richly layered. Every character, from the smallest bit part up on the way up to Rock's lead role, boasts nuance and depth. These are all real, flawed people. And they happen to be in an extremely funny movie.
And though the movie sticks to its well-written script, there are plenty of scenes of gleeful ad-libbing parts, too — particularly across the film's recurring theme of naming the top five rappers of all time. In one grand scene that features Leslie Jones, Jay Pharaoh and Tracy Morgan, Allen revisits his friends from the “old neighborhood” and they riff and bag on each other like they're back on the playground. It's effortless chemistry, and it plays beautifully on screen.
Of course, I haven't even mentioned yet what may be the funniest stretch of the movie. In this part, Allen recounts to Chelsea the night he “hit rock bottom in Houston” (LOL, Houston) and lets Cedric the Entertainer, playing a syrup-guzzling handler, completely steal the show as he does.
Top Five is just an absolute embarrassment of riches. It's at its best when it sticks to the jokes, granted. But even the romantic aspects go down smooth thanks to the natural chemistry that distills it.
The words flow effortlessly in Top Five.
It just feels right.