"Straight outta ... The bicycle shop!" Jib (Tony Revolori), Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) and Malcolm (Shameik Moore) roll down the street of "The Bottoms" in their native Inglewood in a scene from writer/director Rick Famuyiwa's coming-of-age tale DOPE. Credit: Rachel Morrison. Distributor: Open Road Films.


KEY CAST MEMBERS: Shameik Moore, Kiersey Clemons, Tony Revolori, A$AP Rocky, Quincy Brown, Zöe Kravitz, Chanel Iman, Roger Guenveur Smith, Kimberly Elise, Amin Joseph and the voice of Forrest Whitaker 

WRITER(S): Rick Famuyiwa

DIRECTOR(S): Rick Famuyiwa

60 SECOND PLOT SUMMARY (OR AS CLOSE TO THAT TIME AS ONE CAN MAKE IT): Written and directed by Rick Famuyiwa (The Wood, Brown Sugar), Dope stars Shameik Moore as Malcolm, a self-described geek living in "The Bottoms," a rather hardscrabble part of the Inglewood area of Los Angeles. Spending most of his time with his two best friends/punk-funk fusion bandmates Jib (Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons), Malcolm spends most of his days obsessing over 90s "Golden Era" rap music and trying to avoid getting his ass kicked/sneakers stolen by the neighborhood dope dealers/gang members. 

Then one day coming up from school, local drug dealer Dom (RIAA-certified gold rapper Rakim "A$AP Rocky" Mayers) sees Malcolm and asks him to do him a favor: Talk to Nakia (Zöe Kravitz) and invite her on his behalf to his upcoming birthday party. 

That's also where things go terribly wrong for Malcolm and his crew. For a set of unforeseen circumstances leads to the aspiring Harvard student and his two friends indirectly forced into a situation that's going to make them never view the word "dope" in the same way ever again ... And force them to grow up, too.
WHO WILL LIKE THIS FILM THE MOST? 1990s hip-hop fans; people who like films that do not present the typical African-American/"hood" experience; people who enjoy coming of age tales; self-professed nerds; A$AP Rocky fans

WHO WONT (OR SHOULDN'T) LIKE THIS MOVIE? People who cringe when they hear the "n-word;" anyone who has a complete unfamiliarity with 1990s hip-hop culture and does not feel they can understand the fascination with/importance of it; those who find the story a little far fetched in certain aspects

SO, IS IT GOOD, BAD OR ABSOLUTELY AWFUL? A hit at the 2015 Sundance and Cannes Film Festivals, Dope is, in hip-hop terms, a film that not only lives up to its name, but one of the best to release this year and definitive piece of work for a generation lacking one. 

Ironically, the exploration of 'hood life peaked in the 1990s with films like Boyz N The Hood, Menace II Society and Juice before rappers like Master P and Cam'Ron took the direct-to-home-video VHS/DVD market to new levels for fame and personal gain. Likewise, the idea of exploring the nerdy guy or girl is not a new or novel pursuit but has always been one ever since John Hughes made teenage angst and the showcasing of it big business in the 1980s. 

What has just slowly begun creeping into the American consciousness, however, is the idea of the black nerd/smart young person. Be it stand-up comedians like Ron Funches, Baron Vaughn, Hannibal Buress, rappers like Childish Gambino (a.k.a. Donald Glover) and Kendrick Lamar or actors like Michael B. Jordan, the idea of "the definitive black experience" is turning on its head. Whereas 20 years ago it was considered weird or not black to see a teenage black kid skateboarding or listening to a group like Coldplay, the increased diversity of modern America now finds it nearly commonplace – even if the stories of those kids remains largely untold on the whole. 

Dope represents the greatest step to change both of those things – the definition of what being "black" means and representing the new generation of black youth who are much more likely to talk to you about Neil DeGrasse Tyson as they are LeBron James – by delivering an insightful, entertaining and most importantly, honest-feeling story that crosses cultural and racial lines. 

As a whole, the cast is excellent from the dedicated actors like Moore and Kravitz to the rappers involved like A$AP Rocky, Vince Staples and Tyga (the latter two performing in limited roles that feel true to the characters they represent). Moore, however, carries the load of the film with skillful aplomb ... To the point you really understand and sympathize in seeing just how much that word is lacking in his character. For a coming of age tale, Malcolm faces all the usual pursuits – standing up for yourself, overcoming your environment, the opposite sex, etc. – but Moore approaches them all with the level of innocence needed to make them all fresh in his character's world. 

The main thing that will stand out in a full of stand out pieces – the development of secondary characters, the soundtrack and its appreciation for why 90s hip-hop matters to so many people today, race relations, etc. – is the way in which Famuyiwa develops the entire world in which the characters exist and the film's final moments. Everything is treated with a degree of intelligence and statement as fact so that you get the full understanding of what makes Malcolm's story an interesting and compelling one. There are great moments of comedy when called for, there are serious moments without ever going into the overdone "life is so rough in the 'hood" trope and none of Malcolm's relationships come off as natural and not forced for the sake of a movie. 

Instead, what you get is a funny, inspired tale of a young man going through a situation that will either kill him or make him a better person brought to you by a cast and crew having fun doing so while realizing the gravity of the task at hand. That, my friends, truly is Dope



Popular Posts