As a 90’s kid myself and despite having a very varied taste of music, I was a big rap and hip-hop fan back then so it seemed Dope would be right up my street. Would it be Dope? And if so in which sense of the word?
Dope is the story of three young geeky high-school kids: Malcolm, played by Shameik Moore (Incredible Crew), Jib, played by Tony Revolori (The Grand Budapest Hotel, The 5th Wave) and Diggy, played by Kiersey Clemons (Transparent, Cloud 9). These kids are full on geeks living in a tough neighbourhood in Inglewood. Almost by accident they end up getting invited to a local drug dealers birthday party and, when that goes wrong, they accidently end up being drug dealers themselves. None of this, on the face of it, will help Malcolm achieve his goal of getting into Harvard…or will it?
Dope has, quite possibly, one of the best soundtracks around, littered with 90’s hip-hop and rap tracks and some new stuff from Pharrell Williams who also acts as executive producer, with Sean Combs as co-executive producer and Forest Whitaker as producer and providing the voiceover. Writer and director Rick Famuyiwa (Our Family Wedding, Brown Sugar) has some big backers but still managed to make the whole film for around $700,000!
Most of the attention is on Malcolm and Moore plays the part brilliantly. He’s completely believable as this geeky, scared kid who just keeps making wrong turns but, slowly, begins to find his way in the world and himself. Zoe Kravitz (Divergent, The Road Within) plays the love interest with A$ap Rocky as the drug dealer.
Revolori and Clemons are good but, at times, can feel like they’re just there to make up the numbers, ultimately it’s about Malcolm and they have less of a look in during the story. Speaking of story, there are some familiarities to it, I was particularly reminded of Stand by Me when Malcolm pulls a gun on some other high-school bullies who’ve been stealing his trainers.
The movie keeps you interested and engaged throughout, you’ll laugh and sometimes cringe at the decisions, but it’s fun and that’s important. There’s a few clichés and some familiar styles used to bring you up to speed but, that aside, this is a damn fine movie or, some might say, it’s Dope. But not me, I wouldn’t say that, I’m not cool enough.