You have to marvel at Top Five, the third and best feature directed by Chris Rock, because it occupies what good ol’ Dave Matthews might call The Space Between (right now you’re saying this motherf*cker just referenced Dave Matthews in a review of a Chris Rock movie — you’re damn right). There’s the in-betweenness of the genre itself, which like main character Andre Allen keeps toggling from comedy to drama and back again. Even within the more likely genre of the two — comedy, for those of you who’ve never heard of this “Chris Rock” fellow — there’s the sense that the movie is stuck in the middle between the comedy we expected and the comedy we didn’t. Rock, after all, made his directorial debut with Head of State, and it’s pretty clear that with Top Five he’s partly digging stuff like that instead of just doing it all over again.
Mostly, though, the tightrope walking in Top Five occurs in the dialogue. Andre’s a has-been comedian, known to the masses for playing Hammy the Bear in three Hammy movies, and as of now he’s trying to break into more serious roles (like the leader of the Haitian Revolution in his new movie Uprize). He’s also trying to stave off his alcoholism, and Top Five provides a nice link between Andre’s sobriety and his ability to be funny. So the dialogue reflects this in the obvious way, in the events of the script and the plot points and such, but it also reflects this in the way it seems by turns well thought-out and yet totally spontaneous.