29 December 2008 | bob the moo
Crude but carries it due to the strong material and delivery the editing is a bit of a distraction though
In 2008, Chris Rock went on a massive world tour, playing large venues around the world. This HBO special edits together three of these shows (in Johannesburg, New York and London) into one special. In it he covers subjects ranging from the 2008 Presidential race, the rise in the price of petrol, the Bush administration, what groups can say about other groups, the world of work and other subjects.
Chris Rock is a bit of a mixed bag. At times he is very smart and very funny but at other times he sinks into crudity that seems content to draw laughter from swearing and being rude. I accept a bit of the latter if he delivers strongly on the former and I have found that his better shows have done this while his lesser ones have not. However I approach each show with an open mind because no doubt he is a talented stand-up who has a good stage presence. At the very start of Kill the Messenger though, the issue over his material will be secondary because you will be concentrating on (or rather distracted by) the editing together of the shows. I understand they were doing it to show how global it all was but at the start it is done rapidly, halfway through sentences and often repeating the same line three times it is distracting and a bit annoying. Fortunately one gets used to it and it calms down a little as the show goes on.
And good job too because what it lets you do is enjoy a show that is one of the better I have seen from Rock. To my tastes he gets the mix just right as he swears and is crude but does it all on a strong foundation of truth, challenge and observation. This is some great material here as he challenges his audiences one minute and then figuratively sits with them while railing against the man. It is a great structure that allows him to do both things without ever losing his audience which is not as hard to do as it sounds when you consider some of his material here. He comes close with some of it (attacking black women is never a smart thing to do) but ultimately he keeps everyone on board by virtue of the smart material and just how funny the majority of it is. He himself has great stage presence but, as you can see here, it is hard to shoot. He is constantly on the move and the camera tries to keep up with him when he paces instead of settling for a wider shot, the effect is one of slight sickness and at times I preferred just to listen. This is not the whole show though as close ups, audience reactions and wide shots are also used but again it was another weakness built into the film in the editing room.
Overall then what we have here is a show that is damaged slightly in the editing room but is ultimately kept engaging and strong by Chris Rock. His material is crude of course but it is built on strong observation and intelligent discourse, making it funny and clever enough to prevent it just being rude.