From Director and Writer Rick Famuyiwa – who brought us THE WOOD, BROWN SUGAR and OUR FAMILY WEDDING – and who joins forces with Executive Producers Pharrell Williams, Sean Combs and Producer and Narrator Forrest Whitaker – to make a coming of age film about an a young black man headed for GREATNESS – that is, if he can get past the circumstances that seem to be leading him in the opposite direction – welcome to DOPE.
Engrossed in his Senior year of High School ~ with worries like looking the part of a 90’s hip-hop mogul, playing in a band, getting straight A’s, and knocking out his SAT’s so he can get into HARVARD ~ Malcolm (Shamiek Moore) is ON HIS WAY!!! When a chance encounter with a local dealer named Dom (Rakim “A$ap Rocky” Mayers) throws Malcolm into the path of fly girl Nakia (Zoe Kravitz), relaying Dom’s messages ~ as he was instructed ~ is the farthest thing from his mind!
When Malcolm and his posse – friends Jib (Tony Revolori) and Doggy (Kiersey Clemons) join him at one of Dom’s hot spots for a little fun, things get crazy, and all Malcolm can concentrate on is getting Nakia, and his friends, out of there.
Back to school with his posse in tow, Malcolm finds that Dom apparently left him a little “surprise” In his backpack from the night before. Torn as to what he should do with the kilos of cocaine that are now in his possession, Malcolm turns to Dom for a way out of this mess…but finds that Dom is apparently already too occupied saving his own skin to assist him…damn!
Malcolm turns to Austin Jacoby (Roger Guenveur Smith) for guidance, as he is the Harvard alum that should be his ticket to hitting the ivy leagues, only to find that apparently everyone is involved in the drug trafficking in LA, even those you would least expect.
Forced to find a way to get rid of Dom’s drugs without getting himself, Jib or Doggy killed in the process, Malcolm turns to fellow geek and computer genius Will Sherwood (Blake Anderson) to come up with a formula for selling on the internet, but keeping everyone’s reputation as “squeaky clean” as possible in the process…well, maybe not EVERYONE’s…as he can’t blow his chances at finally getting out of Inglewood…regardless of what his present circumstances might be…
I give DOPE 3 out of 5 stars: This film definitely drops you back in to the 90’s with its limitless hip hop references, numerous film shots of screens within the screen, and the over the top gansta’s roaming throughout almost every frame. Moore is superb as the GEEK forced to become a dealer – but with the smarts to outsmart everyone, and still snag the girl of his dreams too. But unlike most coming of age films that we reminisce about – like DAZED AND CONFUSED, CLUELESS or THE BREAKFAST CLUB, DOPE gives us all a new perspective from the side of the tracks less traveled in films like these ~ bringing us the view of a young black man ~ knowing he’s got what it takes to be more than what he’s surrounded by – but coming to the realization too – that where he is from and what his life’s experiences have been, will contribute to all that HE IS, and all that HE WILL BE!! I did find too, that after being able to view this film in its entirety, I understand the enthusiasm this film raised at SUNDANCE. These actors and their performances are incredibly raw, real and poignant, just like the subject matter Famuyiwa takes on in this film, plus add in the draw of Pharrell and Sean Combs being
P.S. – As I am not the “target audience” for this film, I felt that I should also share with you my teenage daughters take on DOPE – as she absolutely LOVED IT – and felt very touched by these characters and their lives, which she shared with me on the way home from the theater.