2014 / Director. Chris Rock.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
The poster art for TOP FIVE is fairly uninspiring. It's a boring photo and doesn't serve the film well at all (and the alternative posters are as equally bland). Fortunately the trailer plays really well and hopefully that is enough to suck people in... and this IS the type of film people should see. Chris Rock is an under appreciated talent outside of his target demographic and he has made films in an attempt to break free of that mould (WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU'RE EXPECTING, 2 DAYS IN NEW YORK etc). This, his latest film, is his third directorial effort following HEAD OF STATE and I THINK I LOVE MY WIFE and it is his most mature and personal project to date. He plays a fictionalised version of himself and the film follows his life during one single evening. With a reporter at his side he hesitantly recalls instrumental moments in his career, which have lead him to sobriety and a serious state of insecurity. His glory days of stand-up comedy are long gone and a series of puerile blockbuster comedies robbed him of credibility. With a new poorly-received historical drama to promote he finds himself at a crossroads where he is reevaluating his life and uncertain about his career. This is obviously a personal film and there is no question that much of it is semi-autobiographical (or at least influenced by first hand knowledge) but I can't help but think that TOP FIVE is his own personal outreach of encouragement. Of course I can only speculate but many of the antics, stories and career choices depicted in the film are lifted straight out of the Eddie Murphy career-guide. Is TOP FIVE Chris Rock's way of appealing to his mentor? Is this his way of pleading with Murphy? I'm gunna say that that's EXACTLY what TOP FIVE is all about... but I digress. Chris Rock has proven himself to be a competent writer (knew it already) and a capable director. He has cleverly presented the film in an almost sketch form structure with his stories interlacing his characters narrative. It has moments of true hilarity but many movie goers will be surprised (perhaps disappointed) to discover just how emotionally charged it is too. The comedy plays out on various levels and I found myself laughing at a lot of industry jokes when the rest of the audience fell silent. I also overheard people in the foyer discussing the racial humour and they were unsure how to process it (seriously? ... pfft. honkies). Chris Rock's heart is on his sleeve and he lets us into a state of mind that few comedic performers would allow. It's also jam packed with support performances from the likes of Rosario Dawson, Cedric The Entertainer, Tracy Morgan and JB Smoove... there are also some great cameos, which I will let you discover for yourself. TOP FIVE is the best that Chris Rock has been in over 20 years and he pulls it off effortlessly. A great script. Excellent performances and a fitting soundtrack make it a wonderful film. Do yourself the favour and check it out. Solid.