Dope (2015)

Dope (2015)

An engaging movie filled with a lot of laughs and heart. 

 

Dope transports us to the urban neighborhood of Inglewood, California where Malcolm (Shameik Moore) and his mother Lisa (Kimberly Elise) live. Malcolm, who is a self-proclaimed nerd, excels in school and hopes to attend Harvard University. He attends high school with his equally nerdy friends Jib (Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons). The group spends most of their free time creating and performing songs for their band Oreo; they also look and collect old school rap records such as “Straight Outta Compton,” and “Public Enemy”; furthermore, they play retro video games and collect comic books.

When an unexpected incident occurs, Malcolm, with the assistance of his loyal friends Jib and Diggy, agrees to handle the situation to ensure that things run smoothly. What is this mission? Malcolm must somehow sell and distribute a large batch of “molly,” without the illegal activity leading back to him. To protect his future and his life, Malcolm recruits Jib, Diggy, and cyber-expert Will (Blake Anderson) to help him venture into this dangerous world, populated with violent gangs and drug dealers.

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Written and directed by Rick Famuyiwa, Dope is a cool indie comedy-drama with lots of heart and originality. Famuyiwa crafts a good screenplay, incorporating well-realized characters, flashbacks, and an interesting storyline. Because of a great introduction to the characters, viewers can learn just enough to sympathize with Malcolm and his friends. That’s why when trouble starts and Malcolm is placed in this unfamiliar situation, viewers can understand the terror he is experiencing.

Famuyiwa purposely structured his screenplay in a way where flashbacks are used when something significantly happens to the major or minor characters. The flashbacks are a good touch, but Famuyiwa overuses them, to the point where all the significant plot beats play out in flashbacks, instead of in real time. That said, the final revelation of the movie does reveal how intelligent Malcolm is.

The combination of fleshed-out characters and the fish-out-of-water world they are placed in creates interesting drama and funny sequences throughout the film. However, some of the minor characters that are introduced in this fish-out-of-water world have interesting dynamics with the main characters, but the storylines of these minor characters are truncated by the film’s end. As a result, this may leave viewers who are expecting consequences for the actions that transpired in the second act with a feeling that the movie didn’t tie up things effectively. Despite these minor issues, Famuyiwa manages to craft a unique tale full of interesting scenarios and likable characters.

The likable characters are brought to life by talented young actors Shameik Moore, Kiersey Clemons, and Tony Revolori. Shameik Moore, who plays Malcolm, inhabits the clever, nerdy character with ease. In Malcolm’s scenes, Moore truly makes viewers believe that this guy isn’t a poser but an authentic individual. Where most young actors would make the mistake of playing caricatures of Malcolm, Moore subtly portrays Malcolm as a humble teenager who embraces the things he loves and doesn’t want to be judged for it. Along with Moore’s good performance, Kiersey Clemons and Tony Revolori deliver solid performances as Diggy and Jig, respectively. Clemons and Revolori manage to shine in the scenes they’re in, despite the whole focus being on Moore’s character. Throughout the film, Diggy and Jig follow Malcolm and help him with his goal. Because of this, the film provides minimal characterizations of them, which leaves them underwritten, in some cases. Despite the lack of their characterizations, Diggy and Jig are still appealing to watch. For example, a scene featuring Malcolm, Diggy, and Jig performing at a party adds excitement and energy to the film. Thanks to Famuyiwa’s well-written script, a lot of the film’s sequences allow the talented actors to showcase their talent.

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From a directorial standpoint, Famuyiwa crafts a great-looking film. Many shots of Inglewood capture the look and feel of the place. Famuyiwa wisely makes Inglewood a character in this film, and it is better for it. From his well-shot scenes, viewers can see the many restaurants (donut shop) and people inhabiting this place: gang members, drug dealers, club goers. Due to their addition, the setting in which Malcolm, Diggy, and Jig inhabit feels authentic, giving viewers more of a reason to enjoy what’s happening onscreen. Famuyiwa also incorporates split-screen to show two different events occurring at the same time. This effect adds suspense to the scene and offers a refreshing variation to the shot sequences presented before it. Overall, Famuyiwa successfully puts together a well-shot film with good stylistic flourishes.

Dope is a well-written movie with well-realized characters and humor. Thanks to Famuyiwa’s good script and direction, the film excites, and leaves viewers wanting more.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Images from:

  1. First Dope image: Twitter
  2. Second Dope image: Fashion & Style
  3. Third Dope image: ITunes Movie Trailers
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