Chris Rock has a gift for comic realism. In his third turn in the director’s chair, he releases the wonderful comedy/drama Top Five.
In this movie, we see a realistic portrayal of an ageing comic looking to move into more serious lines of work. Andre Allen (Chris Rock) is a comic who made his money from playing campy character Hammy the Bear. Tired of his comedy roots, he chooses to make a dramatization of the 1791 Haitian Revolution. Of course, the New York Times pans the movie. Then, on the opening day, Andre gets the opportunity to spend time with Times writer Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson) thanks to pressure from his agent (Kevin Hart.)
This is an extremely well-cast, star studded movie. For once, when the casting agent blew their budget on big name stars, they knew what they were doing. No part is underplayed, from Gabriel Union’s reality show diva role, to Kevin Hart’s flustered manager, all the stars in this one, whether appearing as themselves on someone else, got a fair amount of funny screen time. It’s a veritable who’s who of iconic comedians.
While funny, the movie is also surprisingly realistic. In fact, many of the stars in this film have gone through the same issue that Andre is dealing with. They were previously joke or gag comics who want to be taken seriously by the world. For everyone who manages to make it, there are ten more who’s first efforts flop, much like Andre’s movie “Uprize!”
Of course, this movie isn’t 1000 percent perfect. In several instances, it becomes a bit disjointed and confusing. It’s a loud movie with a lot going on. But even in all that confusion, you want to see Andre succeed. And you want to know why Chelsea would bother to spend all day with a man who her newspaper had already thoroughly panned.
The direction was impressive, with the main focus being New York City, and the wide panning style makes the city breathtaking, while at the same time unflinchingly showing the more humble parts as well. In a way, it reminds me of an old Woody Allen movie. It doesn’t seem deep at first, with two characters running around New York doing silly things. But the longer you watch, the more you realize this is a deep movie. It gives you a lot to think about.
Despite the fact that this is a drama, there are still a lot of breaks from it due to the right kind of comedic timing. Chris Rock never stops being funny, but that hilarity becomes more of a self defense mechanism than it is part of him. Andre is probably one of the best comic characters I’ve seen in a long time.
One thing I like is that they made it clear that Andre’s movie was joke worthy, just by showing the poster; Chris Rock looking violent and brandishing a machete. Despite the serious nature of the film, it’s easy to see why people would laugh at it.
All in all, Top 5 is worth the watch. It is the very definition of comedic drama and is worth seeing just for the excellent ensemble cast. If it had the right distributor, this easily would have been a box office hit.
WE GIVE IT: 4.5 STARS! Official Movie Trailer and Movie Poster Below.