Top Five
dir-scr Chris Rock
prd Barry Diller, Scott Rudin, Eli Bush
with Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, JB Smoove, Gabrielle Union, Cedric the Entertainer, Tracy Morgan, Kevin Hart, Ben Vereen, Gabourey Sidibe, Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Sandler, Whoopi Goldberg
release US 12.Dec.14, UK 8.May.15
14/US Paramount 1h42
Top Five
In-depth interview: Rock and Dawson

union cedric morgan
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Top Five Essentially a movie version of Chris Rock's standup routine, this barbed comedy is riotously profane and very, very funny. It also takes a knowing inside look at show business, clearly drawing on personal experiences to make startlingly on-the-nose observations about journalists, addiction and excess. And the starry cameos add plenty of zing.

Andre Allen (Rock) is a former standup comic who has become a film star through three Hammy the Bear action-comedies. But now he wants to be taken more seriously with his 18th century Haitian revolution epic Uprize! On the day before his heavily publicised marriage to reality TV star Erica (Union), he spends several hours being interviewed by New York Times journalist Chelsea (Dawson), who follows him as he does some errands and promotional appearances and visits his family before the film's premiere and then his carefully orchestrated bachelor party.

Every step is ripe for commentary on the absurdity of the entertainment industry, and Rock has a terrific sense of the comedy around him. Even Andre's loyal sidekick (Smoove) can't protect him from the scrabbling paparazzi, money-grubbing relatives and dazed fans. And key flashbacks offer glimpses into his (and Chelsea's) alcohol-fuelled years, most memorably an outrageous trip to Houston that Andre describes as his personal rock-bottom. Along the way, his pals list their top five rappers.

It's hard to imagine a character more meta than Andre, and Rock plays him with an uncanny honesty. Even when he's "on" there are cracks in his armour, as he's always feeling the pressure to be funny again, something he doesn't believe he can do sober. It's a raw and revealing performance so involving that is almost sustains a feeble rom-com subplot. Much better are the politically incorrect set-pieces that pepper the film, keeping the audience in convulsive fits of guilty laughter.

Along the way, the dialog is packed with social commentary, generally on the state of race in American society and entertainment. And each smart observation comes with a fiercely clever punchline, such as Rock's rant about how difficult it is for a black man to hail a cab in Manhattan. So while the movie-based humour sometimes feels like it's coming from a smug, bitter insider, it's also astute and hilarious. And the most remarkable thing about the film is the way Rock creates such a likeable alter ego out of this juddering mess of a man.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality, violence 30.Apr.15

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