Review | Dope (2015)

Review | Dope (2015)

Growing up geek in ‘The Bottoms’, is a challenge on the best of days. Get caught up in a gang drug deal? Malcolm’s life just got complicated.

Set against a backdrop of Inglewood’s tough neighbourhood knows as The Bottoms, three high-school geeks try to survive each day with the ambition of escaping to a college education.

Malcolm (Shameik Moore – The Get Down), Diggy (Kiersey Clemons – Justice League) and Jib (Tony Revolori – Grand Budapest Hotel) are geeks and passionate fans of nineties hip-hop – reppin’ the music and the style. Each day the trio endeavour to avoid the gangs and bullies that could take your life or your Air Jordans.

A chance encounter with a local drug dealers leads the three straight into the heart of gang life when a deal at a party goes badly wrong. Left holding a large quantity of MDMA and a pistol Malcolm finds his life on the line.

His only way out? The dark web and Bitcoin.

Backed by Forest Whitaker as producer along with Pharrell Williams and Sean ‘P Diddy’ Combs attached as executive producers, writer and director¬†Rick Famuyiwa delivers a coming of age story that leans on early nineties hip-hop genre movies for inspiration.

A ‘Boyz n the Hood‘ backdrop gives way to a light-hearted film that has far more in common with Kid and Play’s ‘House Party‘. Romantic distractions lead Malcolm, Diggy and Jib to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when the FBI raid a party as a drug deal goes down.

Within the context of the film there are gun fights and depictions of gang life, but Dope is a comedy. Any violence isn’t graphically portrayed as the focus remains centred on the predicament the three friends are faced with.

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Using his smarts Malcolm turns to the dark web and cryptocurrency to keep his cool and turn around his situation

Though described from the offset as geeks, these are not the geeks you and I were in school (with). Your common-garden, awkward, asocial nerd. These are Hollywood geeks. Stylised and intelligent – really only as a vehicle to progress the story.

However, the three protagonists are endearing in their friendships and provide plenty of laughs along the way. But there are elements that make no sense. For example, despite their love for nineties hip-hop, the three perform as a punk band that almost takes us into Scott Pilgrim territory.

Small niggles aside, Dope is a fun, well paced hour and three quarters. Oh, and the soundtrack is banging too.

A light-hearted coming of age comedy with a gang aesthetic. Р4/5 

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About Dope | A coming of age comedy/drama for the post hip hop generation. Malcolm is a geek, carefully surviving life in The Bottoms, a tough neighborhood in Inglewood, CA filled with gangsters and drug dealers, while juggling his senior year of college applications, interviews and the SAT. His dream is to attend Harvard.
A chance invitation to a big underground party leads Malcolm and his friends into an “only in Los Angeles” gritty adventure filled with offbeat characters and bad choices. If Malcolm can persevere, he’ll go from being a geek, to being dope, to ultimately being himself.

Will Harrison

About the author | Will Harrison

Founder of The Unheard Nerd. A husband and father of two girls, Will is a fan of Nerdcore Hip-Hop, a comics fiend, a podcast host and champion of independent nerd culture. | Follow will on twitter: @TheUnheardNerd