Posted Oct 28 2015

Top Five - This Rock Rocks. And Keeps On Rockin'

Dir: Chris Rock

Starring Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, Gabrielle Union, Kevin Hart, Adam Sandler, Jerry Sienfeld, Whoopi Goldberg

When Top Five debuted on the festival circuit late last year it was hailed as Chris Rock’s Annie Hall. But it’s not. It’s his Stardust Memories – and all the better for it. The Allen comparisons are in (far too obvious) play because he is once again here writer, director and star. But unlike his previous goes at this, the man appears to drag in a degree of autobiography.

Rock plays a stand up in some degree of crisis. Dealing with his own sobriety and the demands of the modern reality TV addicted world. This is, for the most part, a look at the man’s world, as a never better Rosario Dawson’s NY Times reporter shadows the former stand up now movie star for the day. It’s incidental for the most part, but also incredibly insightful. And funny. But funny in a way that evokes Rock himself – you know his recollections come from the heart – his fondness for Cosby, his experience of Murphy, his reverence for Pryor. Not to labour the Allen comparison, but it is present here - Pryor is his Bergman. But (like Allen) the man has transcended the influence and become the more interesting filmmaker. Rock here walks a line between confession and purge, and he walks it well.

It’s a shame then that in the third act he (inevitably) feels the need to introduce a dramatic contrivance (she’s a guy! Film critic wise!)  - Shut up already. Damn! -but for the most part this is a smart piece of filmmaking, from a man who knows both smart and funny.

What ultimately works about Top Five is the fact that it’s a personal piece of filmmaking. From a man who genuinely has something to say. And is here finally finding his voice.  He doesn’t say it like Woody Allen – the obvious touchstone here – but why the hell should he?

Bordering on genius – which is a room Chris Rock has played for years now.


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