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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Movie Review - Dope

Dope (2015)
Starring Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons, Zoë Kravitz, A$AP Rocky, Keith Stanfield, and Kimberly Elise
Directed by Rick Famuyiwa
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***

Dope starts out quite clever, amusingly smart and engaging -- there's seriously a joke about Neil de Grasse Tyson and Ice Cube that lands so humorously in the first few minutes that my hopes went sky high.  While director-screenwriter Rick Famuyiwa's flick doesn't quite maintain its momentum after some great opening moments, Dope still provides a rather unique glimpse at African American culture.

Malcolm (Shamiek Moore) is a high school senior growing up in Inglewood, CA.  Obsessed with 90s rap culture, Malcolm also finds himself getting trashed on by other students for liking "white stuff" like skateboards, comics, "TV on the Radio," getting good grades, and applying for college.  It's that last "white thing" that's prominently on Malcolm's mind when the film opens.  Desperate to head to Harvard, things are going rather swimmingly for Malcolm until he's convinced by his friends and fellow geeks Jib (Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) to attend the birthday party of drug dealer Dom (A$AP Rocky) at a popular club.  Malcolm obliges in part because he knows that Dom's on-again/off-again girlfriend Nakia (Zoë Kravitz) will be there and Malcolm hopes to make an impression despite the fact that he's not exactly adept with the ladies.  However, the party gets raided by the police and Dom hides his stash of dope in Malcolm's backpack unbeknown to the high schooler, leading to a chaotic series of events that turns Malcolm's life upside down.

While Dope maintains its insightful humor throughout, I could't help but think that it lost a little bit of its original point of view once Malcolm becomes an unwitting drug dealer.  Directorially, Famuyiwa always keeps things sly, both visually and story-wise, and he gets some great performances out of his three main cast members.  Shameik Moore, in particular, is a fresh-faced newcomer who more than carries the film with his exuding of both intelligence and street smarts, and Tony Revolori and Kiersey Clemons (the latter, a sassy tomboy lesbian) add authenticity to the proceedings.  Beyond this trio, however, the film finds itself teetering a little bit, unsure of whether it wants to stay based in reality or go a little over-the-top and whenever it veers towards the latter, I found myself disappointed and removed from the story.  Still, Dope's aesthetic and main performances provide a unique experience that I wish was a bit more carefully executed throughout.

The RyMickey Rating:  B-

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