This week Owen reviews DOPE. Life changes for Malcolm, a geek who’s surviving life in a tough neighborhood, after a chance invitation to an underground party leads him and his friends into a Los Angeles adventure. Remember, Owen doesn’t see movies for free so his rankings reflect if he got his money’s worth!
“Dope” was a hit on the film festival circuit and head the backing of people like Laurence Fishburne, Pharrell Williams, and Sean “Diddy” Combs. Does it live up to all the hype it generated? Yes.
Director: Rick Famuyiwa
Stars: Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons, Kimberly Elise, Chanel Iman, Tyga, Blake Anderson, Zoe Kravitz, A$AP Rocky
It follows Malcolm (Moore) and his two friends Diggy (Clemons) and Jib (Revolori) as they make their way through high school in Inglewood, CA. For context the three kids are considered Geeks, (they even refer to themselves as that) deep into 90’s hip hop culture in a tough neighborhood home to gangs and drug dealers. They sneak into a birthday party for local drug dealer Dom (A$AP Rocky), and when the party goes wrong, they find themselves caught up in a drug deal gone wrong. After the party when they realize what they’ve gotten themselves into, the trio get into various misadventures trying to find a way out of their dilemma. Eventually they figure a way out and at the end turn the tables on what could be considered the antagonist of the film.
Now the movie isn’t 100% serious, it reminds me of “Friday”, and if you liked that you’ll like this film. The 3 main actors are all excellent. You may recognize Revolori/Jib as Zero from “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and he was great there and here. They are obviously in over their heads at first but as the geeks find a solution that relates to their particular skill set.
A very solid focused film – Loved the direction and the acting. The core cast do a excellent job of portraying the three kids as out of their element but ultimately staying true to themselves and each other as they come out on the other side.
The 3 friends watch old VHS(!) tapes of YO! MTV Raps!, dress like 90’s kids, play in a punk band together, and ride skateboards and it don’t come off as cliche. Eveything feels organic and not being forced upon the audience. I think that’s what I liked most about this film. It felt natural and real – nothing felt fake about it. The story does curve a little bit into a kinda of screwball comedy in the middle but it doesn’t hurt the film. There are also a few instances of where they get saved but it wasn’t a deus ex machina. The climax meanders a bit but again, does not take away from the movie. It’s not an absolutely perfect film, but its few flaws don’t take away from the overall quality.
Rating: See It First Weekend – Might be the first great movie of the year. Yes I said Mad Max: Fury Road was the best movie I’ve seen this year but that and this film to me represent two different things. Worth making an effort to seeing on opening weekend.
Quick Hits – SPOILERS AHEAD – You’ve been warned!
1) A$AP Rocky as Dom stole the scenes he was in. First when he broke down Malcolm’s love of 90’s Hip Hop, then explaining what a slippery slope was to his associates, and commentating on the politics of drone strikes. I hope he does more movies.
2) The soundtrack is excellent! Loved how each song played into the scene that was going on at the time. If you grew up on YO! MTV Raps! you’ll love it as well.
3) The director Rick Famuyiwa also directed a favorite film of mine “The Wood” – I highly recommend seeing it if you can. I’ve seen two of his films and they were both focused films – a favorite characteristic of mine when it comes to movie making.
1) Mad Max
3) Ex Machina
4) Avengers: Age of Ultron
5) Love & Mercy
6 Jurassic World
It’s very close between Mad Max: Fury Road and Dope. They both appealed to me in differents ways. Tempted to make them 1A and 1B, but that feels like cheating. Ultimately I enjoyed Mad Max a little bit more than Dope.
Agreements/disagreements welcomed. I can be contacted on Twitter @OwenTheTonk