Chris Nashawaty
December 16, 2014 AT 05:00 AM EST

Top Five

Current Status
In Season
101 minutes
Wide Release Date
Rosario Dawson, Chris Rock, Gabrielle Union
Chris Rock
Paramount Pictures

We gave it an A-

As brilliantly funny as Chris Rock is, he’s never been able to replicate the high-voltage danger and electricity of his stand-up act on the big screen. But in his latest film, the sharply satirical Top Five, he not only makes a case for why he should be a bona fide movie star, he also proves he’s a writer-director to be reckoned with. Rock plays Andre Allen, the former box office powerhouse behind a series of lowbrow Hammy the Bear movies in which he humiliated himself as an undercover cop in a grizzly suit. Newly clean and sober, he’s desperate to be taken seriously by the critics who’ve savaged his comedies, so he’s made a historical epic about a Haitian slave revolt. Promoting the earnest dud on the eve of his wedding to a gold-digging, Kardashian-esque reality star (Gabrielle Union), Andre reluctantly agrees to a lengthy interview with a New York Times reporter (a charmingly vulnerable Rosario Dawson). The two walk around Manhattan, swapping flirty banter and dropping in on some of his old pals (Tracy Morgan, SNL‘s Leslie Jones, and a few A-list cameos too fun to spoil). Between punchlines, they both let their guards down. While Top Five isn’t exactly Rock’s Annie Hall, it is him riffing in the key of Woody Allen, deftly juggling introspection, romance, and slapstick. You come away from it with the thrilling sensation that you’re seeing an artist you thought you knew reinvent himself. A-

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