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TOP FIVE: 4 STARS. “a personal film that crackles with energy and NSFW humour.”

Rock is more at home on stage than off in 'Top Five'In “Top Five” comedic superstar Andre Allen (Chris Rock) faces a problem that has bedeviled many of his real life counterparts. “I don’t feel like being funny anymore,” he says, but will his audience be ready for his new, serious side?

Allen is at a make or break point in his career. After years of making popular comedies featuring a cop in a bear suit, his latest film, “Uprize,” is a serious drama about the slave revolt in Haiti and if it flops his agent (Kevin Hart) says, “we’re talking ‘Dancing With the Stars.’” Before he jets off to London to marry his reality star girlfriend (Gabrielle Union) he does the promotional circuit, including spending a day with New York Times reporter Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson). In the course of doing an in-depth profile on the actor Chelsea uncovers some uncomfortable truths about Allen and herself.

The top five things to know about “Top Five” is that it works as a comedy, as a romance, as a look at creative fulfillment, as a showcase for Chris Rock’s comedian friends and as a portrait of fame in the modern age. Rock, who also writes and directs, is firing on all cylinders in a personal film that crackles with energy and NSFW humour.

Rock and Dawson spark in long, uncut scenes of dialogue that echo “Before Midnight.” Flirting and sparring throughout the film, they are at the heart of the story but Rock has populated the movie with other interesting characters and cameos.

As Allen’s childhood friend and minder Silk, J.B. Smoove is smooth as silk and SNLer Leslie Jones is a showstopper but several supporting players threaten to walk away with the whole movie. Cedric the Entertainer lives up to his name, handing in an outrageous performance as a Houston comedy promoter and DMX, in a short cameo, can only be described as unhinged. Also, it’s almost worth the price of admission to see Jerry Seinfeld “makin’ it rain” in a strip club.

It’s a colourful collection of characters but Rock keeps the focus where it needs to be, on the chemistry between he and Dawson. The talk about everything from Charlie Chaplin—“The Grandmaster Flash of Ha Ha”—to whether or not the release of “Planet of the Apes” in linked to Martin Luther King’s assassination to Allen’s alcoholism. There is an easy air of authenticity between them that is imminently watchable.

Occasionally “Top Five” tries just a bit too hard to pluck the heartstrings—a scene between Allen and his father is a clunker, neither funny or effective—but Rock, unlike his alter ego Allen, is still clearly interested in making funny movies, and pulls it off with panache here.

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