Rock plays Andre Allen, a comic actor best known for his work in the ‘Hammy’ franchise – a film series about a bear cop fighting crime. However he wants to be taken seriously, and so stars in a new drama about a Haitian slave rebellion called Uprize – but people refuse to take him seriously, mostly as the weekend of the film’s release coincides with his wedding to reality TV star Erica Long (Gabrielle Union) which is being broadcast live on television. So in a bid to show people the real him, Allen agrees to speak to New York Times journalist Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson) to paint a candid, authentic picture of his life. However what he wasn’t expecting, was to feel patently affectionate towards the woman writing the story.
Top Five is a blend of genres, and triumphs in every single one. It’s funny, meta, surrealistic, naturalistic, dramatic, poignant and profound – while the romantic narrative running right through the middle of proceedings is accomplished, sincere and so easy to invest in. It helps matters tremendously when the feature is led by such a charismatic leading man, as Rock plays a character that you gather is not too far removed from himself. What comes with that territory is a film that naturally somewhat self-indulgent in parts – but Rock is on hand to quickly dispel any such notion by knocking himself down a few pegs in several instances, in a comically self-deprecating way. It’s a nuanced, tender turn from the actor, and this feels like the film he’s been meaning to make his entire career.
There’s an intriguing and compatible collaboration of cultures in this title which serves the production so well, as while our protagonist is offering an intimate insight into his life, and in turn, black American society, influences from Jewish comedians such as Woody Allen and Larry David remain prevalent, even highlighted in the fact the protagonist shares the same surname as the former. This is also epitomised in the fact we have cameos from the likes of Adam Sandler and Jerry Seinfeld, while even J.B. Smoove, who plays Allen’s best friend and bodyguard Silk, is a key figure in Curb Your Enthusiasm. What transpires is a ridiculously funny film, that has laughs from each and every corner. Every supporting character – also including the likes of Cedric the Entertainer’s freewheeling charlatan Jazzy Dee, to Tracy Morgan’s Fred, or even from DMX in a rare screen appearance, each actor offers a plethora of laughs. It’s rare for comedies these days to even have one significant, funny character – in the case of Top Five, there’s an abundance of them.
For the most, political correctness is something of a side-note, but the quality of the jokes are so strong that it’s not an issue in the slightest. The pathos is remarkably well-judged too, but make no mistake, here is a film that will have you laughing all the way home. The journey back will also have you contemplating on your own definitive top five hip-hop stars, while also wondering when on earth we’re going to be treated to Hammy 4.