When a film hits theaters with a stamp of approval from Sundance Film Festival, certain expectations for not only originality in script, but directorial vision, interesting cinematography and strong leading actors are formed. “Dope” exceeded my expectations and is easily one of my favorite movies of the year.
“Dope” centers around Malcolm (Shameik Moore), a geeky high school senior living in a rough L.A neighborhood. He is completely obsessed with ’90s hip hop culture, plays in a punk band with his friends and studies hard to get into Harvard University. All he has to do to get there is continue to circumnavigate the rampant gang violence. However, when Malcolm and his friends are talked into going to a local drug dealer’s birthday party, they accidentally make off with a backpack full of drugs and are charged with selling them to pay back the supplier.
This indie darling is a tense comedy, like “Superbad”’s edgier, better looking cousin. It was entertainment first and foremost, but it also has a clear, poignant message relevant to current events I won’t spoil for you. It’s woven throughout the story nicely without ever feeling preachy, and it really gets you thinking. Moore gives the obvious standout performance of the cast, but close runners up are our protagonist’s friends played by Tony Revolori (of “The Grand Budapest Hotel” fame), Zoë Kravitz and Kiersey Clemons.
The way certain sequences are shot are exactly the brand of delightfully quirky we’re all looking for in the summer, and I want to give Rick Famuyiwa, the film’s screenwriter and director, the biggest gold star possible for the obvious love he put into this film aesthetically.
My favorite aspect of the entire movie was by far the music. Remember, Malcolm has impeccable taste in 90s hip hop, so that plus the original music by his fictional band Awreeoh make for one incredible soundtrack. My only critique to this film is its pacing. The story dragged some in the beginning, and I thought the climax happened twice before it finally happened.
“Dope” is a weird, hilarious, unpredictably clever film and I can’t wait to buy it when it comes out to DVD. Fair warning, it’s given a hard R rating for good reason, so maybe skip this one if you’re uncomfortable with nudity, drugs, violence and strong language. Otherwise, please see this. You’re in for a fantastic ride.
Verdict: 4.5/5 stars