Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Movie Review #274: "Dope" (2015)

Director: Rick Famuyiwa
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 43 minutes
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Malcolm (Shameik Moore) lives in Inglewood, CA in an area known as 'the bottom.' He is a 90's hip hop geek, a straight-A student, is in a punk band with his friends Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) and Jib (Tony Revolori), and is applying for admission to Harvard. He does his best to avoid trouble in his crime-ridden neighborhood, but after being invited to a party by a girl he has the hots for named Nakai (Zoë Kravitz), Malcolm inadvertently gets into a situation that could turn his whole life upside down.

So often, films of this style focus on people whose stories are deeply involved in gangs or drugs, and how this affects their lives. "Dope" takes a slightly different approach to the typical 'life in projects' style of movies with a a fresh outlook, some witty dialogue, a kick ass soundtrack and some phenomenal acting. In this film, the main protagonist Malcolm, played wonderfully by Shameik Moore, is a geek. He gets straight A's and hopes to one day attend Harvard. It's his senior year and he has just been doing his best to survive his situation, living in a bad part of town but sticking out like a sore thumb. His two best friends are a lesbian named Diggy, played by Kiersey Clemons, and Jib, played by "The Grand Budapest Hotel's" Tony Revolori, who is primarily of Latin American decent, but proudly notes he is 14% African (according to Ancestry.com), which gives him liberties to use certain terms. Together, these 3 friends share a deep love of 90's hip hop, culture, and even the dress of the decade, the part that sports a stereotypical 90's style clothing and hairstyles. They are in a punk band together called Awreeoh (pronounced Oreo), which is suuuuper normal for most kids from Inglewood, right? Malcolm gets bullied quite a bit as others attempt to steal his shoe and chase him down. This one kid in particular, a kid who is deeply involved in the gangster lifestyle and identifies as a Blood, constantly harasses Malcolm and his friends. It's this bullying that sets off a chain of events for Malcolm that flips his life upside down, some for the better, most for the worse. While riding home on his bike from school one afternoon, he and his friends take a different path to avoid this bully and the Bloods. To do this, they have to pass by the drug dealers of the neighborhood, one in particular named Dom, played by rapper A$ap Rocky, who asks Malcolm to do him a favor by delivering a message to a girl named Nakai, played by Zoë Kravitz. Malcolm is very attracted to Nakai and it's her invite to a party that gets Malcolm into situations he's managed to avoid up until this point in his life. From there, things go from bad, to worse, to worser for him and his friends as they find themselves stuck with a ton of dope to sell.

It's hard for us to understand sometimes that no matter how good a person you are, and no matter what you do, there is no avoiding trouble when you're constantly surrounded by poverty and the criminal elements of life. It also shows that simply standing in line at a burger place in certain parts of America, hell, even California, the state we call home, can be a dangerous proposition. While "Dope" does dive into this notion, it also shows that if you are smart and you work hard enough, you can rise above your situation, even if it takes Bitcoin to do so. This film is incredibly funny, yet it's also powerful and poignant without getting muddled down by this humor. Yes, it does involve race, but we thinking ignoring the issues that surround such a heated topic have done no good up until now. This film opens a dialogue and showcases a different take to the coming-of-age genre, and does so in a completely interesting, original and unique way. By mixing issues involving race with a strong message against stereotyping, it's actually sort of a genius movie. There might be a lot going on within the span of 103 minutes, but it's sure as hell entertaining. Apart from this, Shameik Moore is simply outstanding. He, Tony Revolori and Kiersey Clemons are all going to be stars, mark our words. They are tremendous in this film and play off of one another so well, it feels like they really are friends. Pharrell Williams had a hand in the soundtrack and the soundtrack is something that stood out in my mind as being a key element to me enjoying the film as much as I did. "Dope" is definitely a movie that people should see and one that will stick with us personally for a very long time. The way it melds the old 1990's style, music and habits with modern technology, a new sound and a fresh perspective, makes this a must see!

My Rating: 9/10
BigJ's Rating: 8.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 89%
Do we recommend this movie: ABSOLUTELY YES!!!

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