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  • Warning: Spoilers
    Every technical aspect, direction, soundtrack, performances gets a gold star. But the story just gets sillier with each second, culminating in a preachy ending which seems to want to shoehorn depth into a film which has been lacking it for the most part.

    The easiest comparison here is with House Party, but where the comedy in that film was outlandish, it was at least believable and organic. Malcolm as the hero is given many a test, but whereas a typical Hero will meet these tests in a way that really says something specifically about him, the waves really part suspiciously quickly for Malcolm. He gets jumped by his high school bullies and he gets them to back down by pointing a gun at them. Implausibly, they are not packing. He is made to sell the MDMA he found in his backpack - like a drug king pin would trust someone who he had never met, and surprise surprise this is Malcolm's opportunity to screw the screwer.

    It ends up a clichéd, lazy exercise that, apart from some early set-pieces, manages to be neither funny nor dramatic.
  • Rick Famuyiwa's "Dope" opens by providing its titular term with three distinct definitions - to paraphrase, the word can mean an illegal drug, a stupid person, or an affirmation of something's greatness. For the next one-hundred and ten minutes, the film works to illustrate all of those features in some way or another through a lens that's unique, refreshing, and respectful to its characters and their cultures.

    Our main character is Malcolm (Shameik Moore), a black teenager carefully surviving in his crime/drug-ridden neighborhood of Inglewood, California, Despite being influenced by modern forces like the internet and Bitcoin, he loves nineties hip-hop and the culture of yesteryear, and so do his two closest friends, Jib ("The Grand Budapest Hotel"'s Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons), who play in his punk band. Malcolm is going for what seems to be the impossible, which is applying for Harvard and forging a successful career path post-high school. However, in the mix of taking his SAT and writing his college entrance essay, Malcolm gets caught up in the underworld of illegal drugs and crime in the most unconventional way possible. After being invited to a party thrown by a drug dealer (rapper A$AP Rocky), Malcolm works to craft a name for himself by getting invested in the online drug-drealing world, using the help of a local hacker and Bitcoin to create a huge influx of revenue for him and his friends.

    Famuyiwa attempts to do the same thing to African-Americans that John Hughes did with the middle class high school population in the 1980's, which is cut through the stereotypes, the incredulous romances, and what adults perceive teenagers to be like to really get to the heart of them as people. People with choices and decisions to make that are often times as big or as impacting as the ones adults make. The difference is, however, adults come equipped with life experiences where teenagers generally come equipped with their own instincts and peer pressure in their decision-making.

    "Dope" shows the constant struggles of being a moral teenager engulfed in a society driven by illegal behavior and surrounded by peers who are nudging you onto a more dangerous pathway than on which you'd like to travel. The fact that it pays homage to the music and the urban movies of the 1990's is interesting because "Dope" doesn't focus on an anti-hero in a gritty neighborhood, much like the films of that era did. Instead, adhering to the principles of Hughes, it turns to the geek and, in turn, humanizes and paints him as a character trying to find himself in the mix of all this madness.

    Famuyiwa and cinematographer Rachel Morrison crossbreed the early 1990's hip-hop culture with the contemporary technology of the mid-2010's, causing a culture shock of epic proportions in "Dope"'s aesthetic variety. "Dope" has the cinematic look of acid-washed jeans, the feel of a sun-soaked day at the beach, and the smells of everything from acne cream, sunscreen, and marijuana ostensibly infused into every scene. It's the kind of aesthetic that's so detail-centric it almost channels the likes of Wes Anderson, minus the meticulous symmetry in every scene.

    Shameik Moore must be given considerable praise for his role here, which can only be described as a breakout performance. His human characteristics, carefully painted by Famuyiwa, his conflicted personalities, and his subtle arrogance, all traits that, in the end, make him very likable, echo the sentiments of Cuba Gooding, Jr. in "Boyz 'N The Hood," another conflicted soul caught in between being moral in a morally bankrupt area or taking the easy way out. Alongside Revolori and Clemons, two supporting roles that, again, go far and beyond the call of supporting roles, Moore is a talented who you find yourself being unable to take your eyes off of throughout the entire film.

    Above all the aesthetic and character charm, "Dope" is a surprisingly optimistic film. It doesn't get bogged down by environmental cynicism, even when Malcolm has to turn into the kind of people he never wanted to associate himself with. Famuyiwa takes a brave step in the opposite direction of his peers, capturing acts like drug-dealing and backhanded deals in a light that accentuates joy and positivity, but it's all this that make "Dope" an even more fascinating character study, coming of age story, and a subversive tale about life in an urban area.
  • bloodclay20 June 2015
    "Dope" is not the movie that you probably expect when hearing the title. I want to stress that. The word itself has negative connotations (with most thinking immediately of drugs when they hear it), and though it certainly deals with things of that sort, it isn't really that simple. The few definitions of the word are addressed at the beginning of the film, most notably as a slang term referring to something that is "very good". This definition, my favorite of the few, seems to capture the movie in the best light.

    Essentially, this is a coming-of-age picture. Our main character is Malcolm, a high-school senior who's obsessed with 90s hip-hop culture, and who constantly shows this affection by emulating the fashion and language of the time. He's a straight-A student with perfect SAT scores and seems to have everything under control - despite a few bullies - until he finds himself taking a chance invitation to a drug dealer's birthday party along with his two best friends. From there, he's taken on a crazy adventure littered with bad choice after bad choice, all the while juggling college applications and interviews that will surely determine his future.

    Writer/Director Rick Famuyiwa strips the film of any tired clichés or stereotypes for African-American characters, and surprisingly manages to infuse details that question the issues of racism and class discrimination. But above all, he makes a really fun movie. The writing is sharp and humorous, with the acting from the main trio - Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, and Kiersey Clemons - complimenting it excellently. And though it's undoubtedly rough around the edges, its wit and ceaseless energy make it irresistible.
  • KineticSeoul5 October 2015
    Warning: Spoilers
    I want to say this is a dope movie, but I personally don't think it really is all that. I mean I think one of the reasons why some people like this movie is because of the protagonist. Who is this geek that is into the 90's, that a lot of geeks and maybe nerds can relate with. He is unique in his own way, but he is relatable. So before watching this movie, I had no idea what this movie would be about. I first thought it would be a endearing movie about a group of retro geeks and the relationship between then and their pursuits. However this movie is about 3 friends who are geeks that are into 90's style and music that gets entangled in a drug trade. This is a coming of age movie that I really wanted to enjoy because of the unique group of friends in this. The set up however started out really interesting and enticing, but started to go downhill after few minutes in. And when the who drug aspect of the movie kicked in, the movie got boring. I think this movie would have had something if it kept going with the set up it had from the beginning. The acting is pretty good and believable though, especially the interactions. And I did like the message about racism and discrimination but it just didn't connect that well in the end. Because it felt like it was going in a entirely different vibe out of nowhere. It just lacked the impact or the endearing charm I wanted out of it. I didn't really like this movie nor did I enjoy it all that much. This movie is a bit bizarre but not in a good way either. Despite the Slippery-slope direction, this movie just kept faltering. And I am not those people that nitpick movies for it's exposure or point fingers at a film because of my own morals. Which some reviewers are bashing on this film because of. However this movie didn't do it for me.

  • Warning: Spoilers
    Note: This was written before Chi-Raq came out which was 10 times worst!

    *In Flavor Flav voice* "Don't believe the hype!!" (Public Enemy,1988)

    As someone who grew up as an 80's baby and 90's kid to early teens, I had high expectations for this film. I was so excited to see this movie. My background in break dancing (bgirling) is all about 80's- 90's hip hop. I love Kid N Play's House Party, In Living Color, New Jack Swing and Hip Hop Artists! I enjoyed the classic 1999 movie "The Wood" starring Omar Epps and Taye Diggs, another movie by the SAME director as "Dope," Rick Famuyiwa. The beginning of the movie "Dope" was GOLD with the cinematography style, comedy and 90's nostalgia, BUT right in the middle this movie CRASHED into a DISASTER as the plot unraveled and dragged on FOREVER to ridiculous unrealistic circumstances!! So what went wrong?

    The reason there is a lot of HYPE for this movie and high ratings is because "Dope" serves as a Black Culture 101 and Hood for Dummies for people who have NOT been exposed to diversity BELOW middle class. The older age crowd sees this movie as a tool to learn on what's "in" or cool now for the new generation. Also the people who are at the top of the Sundance film festival, the decision makers REALLY PUSHED this movie. Then you have the black folks that just like this movie for the hip hop and 90s references and turn a deaf ear to the black stereotypes and terrible message.

    People are SO mind blown and so intrigued with the cool factors of this film like the rappers and celebrity cast, 90's beats, culture, social media and party scenes through out the movie, that they MISSED and IGNORED the underlying NEGATIVE message that says "If you're from the Hood, you stay Hood. And that's what you'll always be. There's NO way out, so CONFORM." This movie also had the NERVE to imply that college was only a WHITE thing and that selling drugs is the ONLY WAY out the hood for a black male.

    *SPOILER Alert* I haven't wanted to walk out in a movie theater in a long time. When this movie got to the part that was SUPPOSED to be a clever plot twist, where Malcolm's only ticket out the hood turns out to be a TRAP to conform and push drugs, I LOST IT!!! Malcolm's Harvard Alumni interviewer and could-have-been mentor Austin Jacoby was the drug lord and head of the entire drug operation. He turned out to be the final mystery person that Malcolm had to deliver the money for the backpack of drugs to. What a simpleton coincidence! So stupid! Why would a successful Harvard grad still be pushing drugs to the youth on the streets?

    Here you have someone also from "the bottoms" from the same hood that made it into Harvard but stayed in the drug game, getting kids to push dope AFTER making it "successful" out the hood. That communicates "Look kids, even when you make it to the top universities, you still need to sell drugs and destroy your black communities and lives. Getting lil n**** shot up for you." I know there are plenty of people who did shady things they felt they needed to do to get by while in the Hood, but once they were out they DIDN'T return to destructive ways.

    The high school security guard is the same OG from The Wood, the blood gang "Stacey" who appears to turn his life around and takes a regular job is MORE of a role model than his Harvard connection that stayed in the drug game. It gets WORST! *Another SPOILER* At the end Malcolm blackmails or outsmarts Austin and convinces him to get him into Harvard by threatening to expose his drug operation. He somehow outsmarts an older OG and elite Harvard alum grad. Then in his STUPID essay to Harvard he talks about selling drugs in this "woe is me, I'm from the hood" fashion. He gets into Harvard through blackmailing Austin and crappy essay. The attempt to be "DEEP" or profound made me want to walk out because he was justifying selling dope and the end climax scene PALED in Comparison to 90's movie classics like Boyz N the Hood, Higher Learning and Above the Rim. The irony is that the male lead character "Malcolm" looks like Ricky from Boyz N the Hood (1991) who had a football scholarship to get out the hood (but died before he could). Ricky chose sports as his way out the hood. Malcolm's way out was selling dope in pill form on the Internet. This movie does the COMPLETE opposite of what classic 90's hood/urban movies taught us, but yet the main cast are 90's obsessed nerds???

    Another part that was unrealistic and just plain stupid is when the nerd Malcolm pulls out a gun with shaking nervous hands on the Blood gangster leader at night in the hood on the street. Then the gang lead backs off scared of him. What "blood" gangster is UNARMED in the hood, in the worst side of Cali at night???! Later at the end, that same Blood leader nods at him in respect to give him "props." The gang leader doesn't challenge him seeing he is obviously shaking and most likely wouldn't shoot. He also doesn't retaliate being punked in front of his gang crew. YEAH OKAY SURE!

    I will end with this: "Dope" was not DOPE! It did not have the "Jazz" (A Tribe Called Quest) or "JUICE" (1992 movie)! Read in between the lines. Don't be simple.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    After hearing unending hype for Dope coming out of Sundance, I got excited to see the movie and see if it justified the high price tag and big release the movie received.

    It didn't.


    I won't recap the plot but the movie didn't work for and not because of a culture disconnect. For the first 30 minutes, I was with the movie and there was actual tension that propelled the movie forward, enough where I thought it could be a crazy fun movie. For example: Malcolm being told to drop off the dope in the El Camino, then being warned the guy might kill him. Or Malcolm spending time with Lily and she ends up taking the dope. There was constantly new obstacles for him and could've ended up being a crazy After Hours type movie about trying to offload this drug supply, like Fix. However, the college recruiter who "coincidently" happened to be the kingpin was A) Awfully convenient for the plot and B) sucked all of the tension out of the movie. "Let's reschedule for a few weeks from now." The people chasing him are caught, there's no stakes left and the whole movie just becomes a bore.

    The rest of this movie becomes one big tutorial on how to open an online store with a ham-fisted speech at the very end, one criticizing Harvard and white people for asking a question none of them were asking. This movie comes right out of the wheelhouse of "Quirky Sundance Indie" that hits it big every year, a token movie accepted to show how "progressive" they are and widely distributed to show how "with it" studios are, even if the movie is a big miss. Sundance may jizz their pants at it but the whole movie is flaccid.

    Oh and that's not even getting into the fact that the movie is too long and full of annoying "quirky" characters like the wigger stoner and the Bitcoin purse maker, but I've already wasted enough time on this POS.
  • The trailer was a great visual feast but it doesn't show the scale of the movie and how excellent it is. 3 kids from Inglewood, CA, a town we're usually not asked to care about, have to wise up about drug dealing. I actively tried to find a bad performance, and I couldn't find a single one. Unlike many other "black" films, this one has comedic elements and tries to get you to laugh using memes and potty humor. Typically, this would carry a negative connotation, but in the case of this movie it is excellently executed and the pace is so quick that you don't even care how juvenile it is. I encourage everyone to watch this movie when it releases in June, specifically on the 19th. I'm sure it won't have the story it did at Sundance, however. Open Road may change a few elements of the story, which would be a shame. I'm giving this one a 9/10, just in case the movie isn't as good as it once was at Sundance, so bear that in mind.
  • As I was driving to the movie theater to see "Dope" (R, 1:43), I was thinking about how that word is usually used as a slang term and in one of three main ways. Then, as the movie opened, those three definitions appeared on the screen. (Thank you, filmmakers, for making it so easy for me to decide how to open this review.) In short, dope can mean a stupid person, something really cool or refer to an illegal drug. All this begs the question, which of those definitions applies to this film? Short answer: all of them.

    The movie centers on highly intelligent black high school senior Malcolm (Shameik Moore) and his two friends, multi-racial Jib (Tony Revolori) and lesbian Diggy (Kiersey Clemons). Now, I only use these labels because these characters use them for themselves. (They also refer to each other using the n-word, a situation which is used both for laughs and social commentary.) Here's another label the three use for themselves: geeks. Malcolm, Jib and Diggy geek out over 1990s-era rap and hip-hop. They see the 90s as a golden age for these kinds of music and they dress accordingly. In their spare time, however, we see them practicing in their punk rock band. Yup, the three main characters use lots of labels, but they defy them at the same time. For example, even though they see themselves as geeks, it doesn't mean that they're not cool or are incapable of getting along with non-geeks. In short, these labels describe the characters, but don't define them. And that distinction is really what this movie is about.

    "Dope" takes place in one of the rougher neighborhoods in L.A., another circumstance that Malcolm seems intent on rising above. He is just hanging out with his friends and working at getting into Harvard when a chance meeting with a neighborhood drug dealer named Dom (A$AP Rocky) gets him invited to Dom's birthday party at a local club. The party… doesn't exactly go as planned. Malcolm ends up leaving with Nakia (Zoë Kravitz), a girl who Dom thinks belongs to him, but seems more attracted to Malcolm for being "different from the others" (and maybe because he can help her pass her GED). The next day, Malcolm discovers that he has also left the party with a significant amount of Ecstasy (aka Molly) and a gun that does belong to Dom. When a cell phone in the bag rings, the caller demands the drugs. Before Malcolm can hand off the contents of his backpack, the cell phone rings again. It's Dom, calling from jail and warning Malcolm not to turn over the drugs to the other caller. Malcolm is caught in the middle.

    He receives instructions from Dom as to where to take the drugs, but he and his friends are still being pursued by that first caller (Amin Joseph). Malcom, Jib and Diggy take the drugs to a fancy house where Dom sends them and they meet their contact's young adult children (Keith Stanfield and Chanel Iman). Daddy's not home, so the five of them decide to hang out. Things don't go much better at the house than they did at the club the night before, so Malcolm and his friends are forced to improvise. They concoct a plan to get rid of the drugs with relatively little risk to themselves and the possibility of some significant rewards. They enlist the help of an old acquaintance from band camp (who also happens to be both a druggie and a hacker) by the name of Will Sherwood (Blake Anderson). Their audacious plan may solve all their problems, or it may land them in jail – or worse. No matter what happens, the three friends seem destined to shed at least some of their labels, and maybe gain some new ones.

    "Dope" reminds me of the inner-city-set films of the 90s (the very period with which the three main characters are obsessed), but with less violence and more laughs. The movie uses humor to add entertainment value to the story, but also as a different way of approaching some very important issues, including ongoing problems in our inner cities and the use of labels in our society at large. The film's pedigree certainly contributed to its effectiveness. "Dope" is produced (and partially narrated by) Forest Whitaker, while Sean Combs and Pharrell Williams share executive producer credits. It also doesn't hurt that the movie is so well-written and well-directed by Rick Famuyiwa ("Brown Sugar", "The Wood") and has a strong, though little-known cast.

    Malcolm and his friends are appealing and sympathetic characters, but make some morally questionable decisions. While the script makes light of their circumstances, it also slyly comments on them, but without suggesting definitive right and wrong answers. This is a coming-of-age movie that is both enjoyable and thought-provoking. There are a few too many loose ends for my taste and I found much of the plot to be a little too morally ambiguous, but this is still one of the best urban dramas in the past 20 years. To sum up this review, let me suggest some slightly altered meanings for the film's title: Dope can refer to some of the movie's main characters, the curse of their neighborhoods or anyone who won't at least consider seeing the film because of labels they may have already assigned to it. "B+"
  • If you watch a lot of films, you develop an instinct for what is happening behind the camera. Some films -- heck, most films -- are all about the money, the box office, the payoff.

    Not so with auteur Rick Famuyiwa's DOPE. Running at an overlong 1:45, you sense that money might have been the last thing on this writer/director's mind when he crafted the script; created some of the most endearing characters in modern film; carefully snuck into the dialog his puns, life lessons and bon mots; extracted top performances from his team; and ultimately created an experience that more "overwhelms" the viewer with images and ideas than "overpowers."

    I liked it. I really liked it. But I go out of my way to catch films that most mainstream viewers don't, because film as a medium fascinates me.

    The other IMDb members have done some great reviews and I don't want to repeat what has been said.

    I do want to add this: technically the film is almost perfect. There is nothing obviously wrong with any scene, trope, performance ... it all works. And passion? There is tons of passion, nicely hidden in the script, obvious only in the way the film alternates back and forth between fast noisy action, and contemplative self-absorbed scenes of the type you would be more likely to find in a Woody Allen picture. Even with voice-over.

    It has everything but pacing -- and that is the critical flaw. Famuyiwa tried so hard to cram so much into DOPE that the film lacks internal rhythm. By the very end, the viewer, while appreciative of the characters and the story, is pretty much lost.

    One hopes that in his next project Famuyiwa will pay more attention to the viewers and less to his own "bucket list" of things he wants to cram into the story.

    In that way, what starts as merely good ... could be great.
  • "A movie about nerds who love 90's hip-hop showing up a gangster? Yes, please!" was my initial reaction to this movie when I saw it on Netflix. So, last night, I stayed up and watched the movie. And...? Well, I think there's plenty of enjoyable things in this movie, but there's also just some dumb stuff that I can't get past that make this movie a little odd to me.

    First of all, I really like Malcolm. He is an enjoyable lead, relate-able and is well developed, not to mention that the actor gives a solid performance. It's easy to care about this character.

    I also really liked the set-up of the movie. It had an interesting idea and seemed to have a good way of carrying it out.

    Thirdly, I also loved the comedy. There are some legitimately funny moments in this movie.

    But...... Let's get into the bad.

    This is a bland looking movie. The cinematography is pretty standard, the set design in lack luster, and, outside of Malcolm's clothing, nothing really draws your eye to the screen. Just blah.

    The side characters. I have no connections to these side characters. Dicky I only remember because she was a lesbian. That's her only character trait. The other friend is also bland. He's so bland, I don't even remember his name. But the WORST was Malcolm's love interest. I don't remember her name, either. She just seems so self- centered, and all we know is that she dated this one guy and wants to go to Six Flags. Not enough to make me invested in her.

    Lastly, the film doesn't know when to end. Seriously. It has, like, 4 different endings. I thought it was over when Malcolm revealed his plan to a man that screwed him over. The music swelled, and the line was given a lot of emphasis. But, NOPE! There's another ending where Malcolm gives a big speech, the music swells, and then there's a line with a lot of focus on it. Is it over? Nope! Chuck Testa! Then there's a boring third ending with the a fore mentioned love interest that we don't care about. There was a fourth ending, and that one is the best. It just ends with a sort of cliff hanger, and I appreciated that ending. The first ending and last ending are just fine. But, they just had too much to cram in and it became too crowded.

    So, this film is pretty funny and mostly enjoyable, but I don't think I'm going to watch it again any time soon.
  • Grab a coming-of-age film with 3 innocent teens, slap an R (MA15+) rating on it and you get this very 'dope' film. Dope is easily one of the most interesting and by far unique films of the last few years. You go in expecting one thing, and come out of it getting something far from what you wanted. Usually that would be a bad thing, but this film was so intelligent and different that you can't help but leave with a smile on your face. I was expecting some sort of run of the mill coming-of-age comedy after seeing the trailer, but the film is much more complex than that, incorporating lots of themes and ideas that make you think while also keeping up the fun entertainment the whole way through. It was just a really refreshing thing to see in a world where most films today are just borrowing from other successful films. This movie has fantastic performances, an entertaining and fun plot that takes turns you never expect, and a great visual style that makes this stand out on its own in the Coming-Of-Age film genre.

    Lets talk about these performances shall we, because these are three that will most likely get severely overlooked this year but i don't think it is the last we have heard of some of these actors. Your main guy Shameik Moore did an incredible job at playing Malcolm, this teenager who is trying to keep in line with school and college whilst all of these problems come his way that force him to be someone more than just the geek. He was great at conveying that this guy really wants to do good in the world but sometimes things happen that force you to act against your own instincts. He handled the serious intense scenes well, he delivered so great on the comedy and has definitely opened the door on his movie career. The other great performance was Tony Revolori who was so funny and witty and played his character well. I loved him in last years 'The Grand Budapest Hotel' so i had no doubt he would be great in this and he did not disappoint. His character could very easily been the dopey side character who is only around for comic relief but he proved to be an integral part of the film. But my favourite performance had to be by Kiersey Clemons who absolutely killed it in what is her breakout roll. She brought so much life and personality not only to her character but also to the film and made it infinitely more funny and entertaining. I can't wait to see her in more things because i loved her in this.

    Lets talk about the plot, storytelling and structure of this film because it was mostly very very well made and told. I have to give a load of credit to the writers of this film because the plot for this film did not go in any direction i could've thought of in a million years. It was so engaging and there was a sense of urgency to the film, like, you always are wanting to know what will happen next and where the film is going to take you. Incredible writing that worked really really well. While i was watching the film i wasn't so thrilled with the first 15 minutes or so, i felt that it was taking too long to introduce these characters and showing things that didn't look like they were leading anywhere. But by the end of the film, everything about the beginning pays off, you get this very interesting before and after that incorporates some interesting themes about being yourself and thats where the film does great at incorporating some positive messages.

    The film got a little patchy at times, where it was kind of dwelling on one thing when i wanted to move on to see what was going on with something else, but that was very quick and minor and didn't hurt it that much. In the end, this film was full of awesome, refreshing ideas that took the coming-of-age genre i love to new heights. Packed with comedy, some well used action, as well as incorporating crime and drama elements, this really was a complete package and is an indie film you should definitely check out and have a 'dope' ride. - 8.4
  • Warning: Spoilers
    In 1991, Morris Chestnut played Ricky Baker in a John Singleton movie (you know the one). Cut to 2015 and you have virtual lookalike Shameik Moore playing Malcolm in Dope (my latest review). Currently, a lot of people are comparing it to Risky Business. I digress but there's one thing that's apparent. "Business" made Tom Cruise a star and I think Dope could do the same for Moore. His performance is the highlight in this otherwise, overrated swipe on high school comedy/drama high jinks. To paint a picture, Dope is disappointing and it has a 90's hip hop aroma that's full tilt. Oh I almost forgot, somewhere somehow, Kid (of Kid n' Play) desperately wants his hi-top fade back.

    Shot by a native of Inglewood, California (where the goings-on take place), featuring a scene where a young female pees in public via a drug fueled haze (ugh), and showcasing various, cocksure characters who reluctantly fade in and out of the storyline, Dope focuses on three best friends. They are Diggy (played by Kiersey Clemons), Jib (played by Tony Revolori), and Malcolm (played by Shameik Moore). They aren't the coolest cats in high school but a chance visit to an underground party, gives them the opportunity to make lots of money selling drugs online. On the side, they have to deal with various thugs, smuggle powder (some kind of cocaine mixture I guess) through school security, and keep up with their schoolwork (college applications are waiting). And while all this is going on, Forest Whitaker (one of Dope's producers) does some uneven narration in the beginning only to never be heard from again (was this necessary, I'm thinking no).

    Now Dope was a favorite at this year's Sundance Film Festival. I myself, became irritated by how its lead was kicked around and treated like a wilted piñata. What's on screen is mean-spirited, off-putting, and filled with characters who overact while coming off as unwitty. Just picture another L.A. tone poem registering as an urban Go (1999) and a more filthier version of Superbad. The cinematic techniques here by director Rick Famuyiwa, consist of flashbacks, split screens, and some other off-kilter camera-work. That's all fine and dandy except that the editing by Lee Haugen (Dear Sidewalk), is so choppy it robs said techniques of any real exhilaration. What's left is an annoying drug pusher exercise by which sagacious nerds get their day.

    In conclusion, you have 103 (overlong) minutes that critics have relegated to salivate over. Why you ask? Because every aspect seems original or dissimilar. I for one, am not on board. If the art of stereotyping is the intention towards getting through to an audience, then this vehicle is par for the course. Bottom line: You don't get any kind of buzz or natural high from Dope's incessant clamoring. All that occurs is a comedown or crash. Am I saying that these proceedings are a bit depressing? Not really. Am I saying that they're in a word, apathetic? Yeah that's it. The result: 2 stars.
  • When we grow up we all have our dreams. Some want to go to college, some want to score hot babes, some want to be in a cool band, some want to be an OG, sell dope and wear a thick golden chain around their necks. And some want to shoot films about these folks.

    Well, it seems to me that at least Rick Famuyiwa made his dream come true. Well, in a sense that he managed to end up behind a camera and orchestrate the action in front of it. However, being a writer/director of a film doesn't give you a magic ability to truly fit the shoes of your characters. Instead, when you make a film about someone else's dreams, it's more like a story of how you imagine those dreams would be. And, in case of Dope, that's a big difference...

    We're all tired of those hardcore gangsta homies. So let's spin the story around a non-typical "nerd" black guy. He's the one who gets picked at by bullies and he's the one who actually plans to take the SATs. But that's just too flunky for the "tough" part of the target audience, so let's make our hero unlikely appealing to all sorts of women, getting in some nasty business with serious people, and eventually out-streetwise'ing them on the way to his dreams, so that it looks both generally satisfying and still unconventional. And yeah, let's make it all in style, just like we love it: a mix of Tarantino and Apatow, with a sprinkle of bling and hip-hop on top.

    Well, unfortunately, some things just don't go together well, at least not if you want believability. For example, you can't make a story of a nerdy wimp who goes nose-deep into the criminal business, to the point when he's bound to ask himself whether he's still the "good guy" he used to position himself as, gets on top of the situation and comes back to the surface as nothing but the profitable stuff stuck to him.

    It could've worked if Dope was trying to be Burn-After-Reading-like hilarious, because crazy things do happen when you assume that people are ridiculous. Or if Dope just remained a high-as-sh!t Pineapple-Express-kind-of flick through and through, because crazy things do happen when people are whacked out of their minds. But you don't start with the half-bizarre half-dummy approach, then go all dark and dramatic, and then go back and feed us the MC-Hammer-style dance moves during the ending credits. These numbers just don't add up.

    But the true problem of this movie is not those schizophrenic mood swings of its script. It's the fact that everything we see on screen tries its best not to be stereotypical and to avoid the clichés, but ends up simply fake, as if a dope dealer and a school straight-A nerd got their bodies switched, but their minds remained the same, totally ignorant of what their counterpart's life is really about. Malcolm is a geek, but only in terms of what other people might think geeks are about. Dom and Co are shady guys, but also just what you might think of them from passing them by on the street or watching a black gang movie. Neither side of this story had enough consistency to hold its weight, and the only explanation we get is that everything's "complicated". It sure as hell is, just not in the right way!

    The cherry on top of this festival of cardboard adventure is a scene with the purse maker. Every single thing you could've gotten wrong about people if you never actually cared to learn what they really do - it's all there. A fake bag maker who's also a blackmarket Bitcoin dealer. Who's also operating a computer with a two-button mouse with no wheel (it's 2015 guys, I really have no idea where the filmmakers dug up that fossil). Who's also testing his customers with a pseudo-insightful mumbo-jumbo speech and a demand of punching him in the jaw. Yes! If anything could beat a druggie who looks like a clown and moonlights as a mask-wearing pro hacker, that would be the only thing. Congrats guys, that's really dope.

    The only thing this movie didn't manage to fit inside is that if you're a black man and you don't do sports, then going to Harvard is still possible even without having to deal with arms or drugs or even pop-punk bands and videoblogging. You know, you could just be normal, doing the same boring stuff the white guys do. Maybe that's not fun enough, but at least it's real. But who wants to be real when you can go with a cool flat-top afro and a bunch of funky dance moves instead, right?
  • chasesunning26 December 2015
    Warning: Spoilers
    This movie starts out with a simple enough premise to get you interested. Clumsy nerdy kid obsessed with the 90's is a cool thing in my opinion. But I didn't even make it all the way through this. The dialogue sounds like it's written by a 10 year old who just discovered what the N word means. It's nonsensical and too drawn out and the lead seems to think if you stutter and stumble over your words it makes you sound like a nerd. It was clear after 40 minutes in that this movie just wasn't going to get any better. I suggest you watch a movie with a plot or ingredient characters or anything that matters. The one positive I saw was that everyone was trying and the music the lead characters band played sounded pretty cool. But that couldn't fix what was already broken.
  • This was seriously disappointing. So much of it just completely overwhelmed me. It was so "busy" to the point that I became totally uninterested in what was going on halfway through. I think the performances are very good, but the directing here is the problem more than anything. It just comes across extremely proud of itself and kind of obnoxious, and way, way too much style for its own good. That ending is just proof of how the filmmakers seem to enjoy toying way too much with their audience, and I would usually give credit for that but it was honestly annoying. I don't think it's horrible though, thus a 5. I wonder how audiences will take to it.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Yeah sure, funny and everything, but the ending is completely stupid, I mean SPOILER it clearly implies that Harvard would accept anyone with no questions whatsoever if they are WHITE. Yes, that's the ending. And the conclusion of this Harvard entrance essay. Oh by the way he passed.

    Second mistake, how is he "a geek" ? Malcolm keeps repeating that, the plot keeps repeating that, but what exactly, makes him a geek ? His love of 90' culture ? Come on he is not a nerd in any way, he might have some funny clothes but he is very sociable and socially clever, he has NOTHING to do with Computer Sciences or sciences whatsoever, he even asks for help to sell something on the Bitcoin Market...I mean every time he actively says "Yeah, by the way I am a geek" in the movie, the movie admits to fail at showing it. Obviously this is useful for the plot but it just doesn't show it in any proper way !!!

    This is...this is CINEMA, you have to SHOW things, not tell them without any concrete proof that you can relate to !

    Except that, the movie is great, we dive easily into this hip hop culture and it is quite funny, but the ending is completely WTF and the geek aspect of Malcolm's character fails considerably.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    "Dope" revolves around the misadventures of a trio of band camp geeks who get caught up in a set of "hood" or should I say, "WOOD" circumstances that they must figure their way out of all while trying to stay alive and true to their square selves. The leader of this geek squad, Malcom is a 4.0 GPA, rock-star-in-the-making, high school senior with Ivy League dreams of attending Harvard University. Still, somehow I left the theater scratching my head and applauding.

    Like the film's Director, Rick Famuyiwa, I too was born in 1973 and bred in Inglewood, CA. In fact, I dedicated an entire chapter to my city in my coming of age memoir, "The Avocado Tree" released in 2012. So, as an author and screenwriter, my biggest problem with the film was its overuse of the word "nigga." Honestly, I don't think I've heard it used that much since NWA's tracks "Real Niggaz" and "Niggaz 4 Life" off the "EFFIL4ZAGIN" album.

    For those that may not know, Rick Famuyiwa is the same guy that wrote and directed the 1999 film "The Wood;" another a coming-of-age story about life in Inglewood, CA, which reminded me of my own childhood and still one of my favorites. But, with Pharrell Williams as executive producer on "Dope" and the likes of Forest Whitaker and P. Diddy (Sean Combs) also putting money behind it, I wondered if there was pressure from up high to literally have the word "nigga" in every scene of the movie…and I do mean every single scene. Was nobody just a little uncomfortable during the table reads? "Nigga" was used so much that the dialogue became inauthentic. Famuyiwa even had people saying "nigga" in scenes that really didn't call for it, like Kimberly Elise's scene on the bus. Did she really need to say it? I think not. It was overkill to say the least, even for a native of "The Wood" (the 'Aves' to be exact) like myself.

    I hope that those suburbanites that go and see this movie will not leave the theater believing that people from Inglewood have no alternative vernacular and that "nigga" is every other word in sentences we form. To put it simple, we don't talk like that! At least the majority of us don't. I would have liked to see a more mature and socially responsible Rick Famiyuwa as a director/screenwriter who's been in the game nearly two decades. I found it odd that the film's protagonist Malcom (a straight A student) was smart, unique and comfortable enough in his own skin to accept his own geekdom, all while others (thugs) referred to him as a "nigga," but somehow although Harvard bound, he wasn't smart or unique enough to NOT refer to himself as one. Had he chosen the latter, I would have had all the more respect for the kid. I mean this kid knew the definition of a "slippery slope," but didn't know the etymology of the "N" word? Or simply chose to ignore it. "COME ON SON!!!!"

    Overall, I liked the movie. I'm from the Wood and get it totally. I grew up in the 70's and 80's and kicked it all over LA as a kid from the Jungles to the Bottomz and beyond. "Dope" reminded me of a time when hip hop heads like myself were young and impressionable. Your style was either east coast (Rakim, Run-DMC, EPMD) who rocked sweat suits and fat gold chains. Or your style was west coast (NWA, Ice-T and Too Short) so you rocked Fila shirts, khakis, chucks and corduroy crocasacks. But, for cats like me who were somewhere in the middle, De La Soul appeared one day and we finally found our place in hip hop. Not gangster and not street hustler, but cool kids (like Malcolm) with backpacks; kids cool enough to rock a high top fade or gumby haircut with an African medallion, a rayon shirt and baggy jeans. We loved De La's "Plug Tunin'" and "Buddy," "Funkin Lessons" by X-Clan, Tribe's "Bonita Applebum," in addition to Pat Benatar's "We Are Young" and "West End Girls" by the Pet Shop Boys. That was "DOPE!"
  • Dope* 1. adj: cool, nice, awesome 2. noun: a drug

    Walking into the cinema... Intrigued? It looks like an urban, coming of age film, but not sure what to expect.

    Art-house rating: 2.25 stars* Cinematic rating: 2 stars Big question opportunities: 3 stars


    Coming of age films can be a bit bewildering. Many of the stories within this category are meant to help audiences to see into a micro-culture and what life is like for those who live there. Yet, the narratives tend to centre on unbelievable events and situations. So, many coming of age films should be realistically categorised as 'coming of age in a world of the unbelievable.' This accurately depicts Rick Famuyiwa's (Our Family Wedding) film, Dope. Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker produced and narrated this tale of a nerd trio living in the post hip-hop era of The Bottoms in Inglewood, CA. Unlike many of the films that portray the 'hood' experience, Malcolm (Shameik Moore) is a leader of a geek trinity who is trying to survive in this world of gangsters and drugs dealers, while hoping to escape by applying to university, doing well on the SAT exam and successfully completing his entrance essay to Harvard. Within this humorous story of survival, the three of them get invited to an underground party that leads them to a set of life-changing events in a realm dealing boutique drugs. They have to make survival choices and find out how far they will go for love, acceptance and friendship.

    The poor neighbourhoods of the world have provided great underdog stories and will for the foreseeable future. Dope provides the underdog story that contains wonderfully written characters that must find brilliant solutions to bizarre situations. They are square pegs that have a desire for acceptance, but due to their necessary bond of friendship they are comfortable in their own individuality. Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Kiersey Clemons (Eye Candy) are well cast for the central trinity. Their comedic timing and believability are commendable and should be celebrated. Each situation provides another layer to add to the depth of each character. In a less than appealing environment, they provide the reason to see what happens to them. Famuyiwa occasionally falls into the coming-of-age and urban genre clichés, but keeps the story moving forward to a unique conclusion. Even though the ending does get a bit preachy and diminishes the message of the film, it does not devalue the innovative story telling.

    This odd, but appealing storyline provides characters and an authenticity to the portrayal of The Bottoms, but ultimately the lack of a moral centre fails the narrative. Originally, Malcolm seems to contain the moral character within himself to lift him out of his situations, but proves otherwise. Fumuyiwa's direction allows for justification of all behaviour, if it gets the central characters what they want in the end. They are put into exceptional situations, but that does not justify their behaviour or provide a positive message for youth going through the same life experiences. Ultimately, Dope, ain't dope*. (Yo! That is about as close as I get to slang)

    Leaving the cinema... Rick Famuyiwa worked well in bringing the world of The Bottoms to the screen. The rich characters and unique situations make for an interesting adventure. Yet, the story left me feeling like some of the character's portrayal of the day after a bender, asking the question, 'What just happened? It felt like fun at the time, but on evaluation it was not satisfying.'

    Reel Dialogue: What are the bigger questions to consider from this film? 1. Do circumstances justify our actions? (Philippines 1:27, 1 Peter 2:23) 2. Where do we find our morals? (Matthew 7:12, 2 Timothy 3:15-16) 3. How far should we go to achieve our dreams? (Proverbs 6:6-11, James 4:13-14)

    Written by Russell Matthews based on a five star rating system @ Russelling Reviews #russellingreviews #dopefilm
  • So the other night my friend was sleeping over and he fell asleep. So I decided to order a movie and watch it. I ordered DOPE because it got really good reviews and lots of praise. But this movie was nothing spectacular at all. By the end I was just kinda confused and shocked that so many people look at this as a great film. First off, the love interest between the main character and the girl is very lame and underdeveloped. It almost seemed forced in a week before the films release. The supporting cast is awful. The main kids two friends are extremely bad actors and very generic. They offer nothing the whole movie. The plot is pretty bland as well. A straight a kid becomes a drug dealer. That's it. They also introduce characters that are never explained. The principal of the schools son is being confronted by the police in a scene and they never explain what happened to him. They never explain the gang members chasing the kid in the beginning. And the ending seems very rushed. The jokes are terrible. I didn't even crack a smile the whole movie. And I typically laugh at everything. Its just a bland, overrated, unfunny movie.
  • *** SPOILER ALERT ***

    I remember thinking this movie looked cool because of the retro 90's style to it. Although not knowing exactly what it was going to be about from the previews, it seemed interesting, fun and sort of like another "The Wood" type of movie (awesome movie by the way and I LOVED the Stacey reference, that was cool)

    It started great and for the first 15-20 mins I was into it, but then it just started getting weird and complex. The story took a complete turn and not in a good direction. After about 35-40 mins I found myself completely bored and uninterested in the movie.

    It started off strong and as a viewer you can kind of feel what direction a movie is going, but with "Dope" it kept going in all different directions - trying to cover a little bit of everything which didn't work and just left me feeling annoyed and bored.

    It's upsetting because I had high hopes for this movie. If the writer/director just stayed on one general topic instead of trying to cover everything, it could have worked. There are ways of adding different twists and obstacles in a movie while remaining on course (Harold and Kumar, Running Scared, etc.). Unfortunately, DOPE was not one of those and failed. This really had the potential to be a "Dope" movie but instead, it was just another disappointing "coming of age" wanna be.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I can honestly say that if you don't love it, you will at least like it. The movie places Malcolm (Shameik Moore), in an unreal situation that will have you thinking, "What would I really do in this type of situation?" If you catch the jokes which is filled with young humor; mixed in with some reminders of childhood memories,then you will very much appreciate more than 3/4's of the movie.

    During the movie, Malcolm and his two friends keep you optimistic that it all will workout in the end. They're different from their environment, they're very retro,and they have the personality that matches the old skool feel that they portray. The movie soundtrack gives you the same vibe. Every time the music cues in, you feel as though you are in the film with them. Now the movie may not be as good of the 8 that I gave it, but the soundtrack is surely worth an extra point or two.

    I must give A$AP Rocky a decent review. His role as Dom in the movie kept you wondering what was going on. Friend or Foe.. we may never really know. Maybe it's both depending on how you view the film. He makes you hate to hate him but makes it so easy to do so!

    This could be one of those summer sleeper movies (Movies that don't get the attention that it deserves). I am not sure if the trailers entices anyone to see the movie though. I figured what potential the movie could have, so I decided to see it. It had some good comedy, but I am not exactly sure if it hit as hard as it could. The bright side is that it did do a good job with at least keeping a grin on your face. You also left the movie kind of confused and wanting to know just a little more. Other than that, if you are someone who wanted to see the movie, you will most likely enjoy the movie. If not, you will find something to like about it, at least one or two characters. This movie is not for everyone, but I will recommend it to the family who can handle maturity and the graphic nature of the film together. After all of that, I will give the movie and 8 out of ten. Great job to Shameik Moore, Kiersey Clemons, Tony Revolori, and the rest of supporting cast!
  • ThomasDrufke16 October 2015
    Coming out around the same time as Straight Outta Compton, which also deals with a group of friends in crime filled Cali that has a ton of music, Dope was a bit overshadowed in early August when it hit theaters. Make no mistake though, this is a really good film. It's highly entertaining, fast paced, and easily one of the most original screenplays of 2015 and perhaps of the past few years.

    We follow a group of 'nerds' as they call themselves who are highly intelligent but also love 90's rap and jamming out themselves as their own band Awreeoh. It just so happens that they get caught up in a dangerously tricky situation involving some 'dope'. It's fair to say that most of what happens in the film is a bit too coincidental, it is. But what I loved most was this group of nerds and their reactions to each coinciding event. Shameik Moore plays the lead character, Malcom, and he does so wonderfully. If Moore plays his cards correctly, I think we will hear about this kid for years to come.

    More importantly, you really buy into the groups dynamic. It never feels fake even when the situation surrounding them gets to be far- fetched. But I guess that also brings me to one of my negatives which is that after the first half or so it turns into Malcom's story. The first 45 minutes are great mainly because of the group's various endeavors. It's not a bad thing necessarily, it was just a tad less interesting. There's also a message behind the film that arises around the last 15 minutes or so and I can definitely see where it would be jarring to people. It doesn't take you out of the film per se but it is something you just have to accept.

    So Dope's first half is up in there in my most entertaining 45 minutes of 2015. The last hour is fine but it definitely brings the film down a notch. If anything, Dope is worth watching if you're a fan of rap, a nerd, or you would like to see one of the best performances from someone who likely won't even be considered for an Oscar. Or maybe you just want to check in and see how you're favorite rappers Tyga and ASAP Rocky did on the big screen. Either way, check out Dope.

    +Moore's breakthrough role


    +Original idea turns out to be so fun

    +Nerds seem like actual nerds

    -Second half takes a big dip in quality

  • Warning: Spoilers
    This movie is AWFUL!!!!! Please save your money and time. Forest Whitaker and the movie cast must clearly be desperate for money or very desperate for attention to make a sick and perverted movie like this. The writers of this movie "need a come to Jesus meeting." One of the sickest movies I have ever seen. It is unfit for anyone to view. This is only another SICK movie that contains sexual scenes that no kid or adult should be expose too, and only pollutes our culture more. Why would an established actor like Forest Whitaker and P. Williams, the executive producer desire to make a movie that only glorifies illicit sex, drug-selling, laziness, and whore mongers to young adults. This is not entertainment. This movie makes Boys N Hood and Friday look like "G" rated movies. "Dope" executive producers, directors, writers, and actors should seriously check there conscious to want to produce something so vile and sickening and think it is okay for our black teens to watch. I won't be supporting Forrest Whitaker, P. Williams, etc in anything else.
  • To give you a little background on this film….. it was written and directed by a virtual unknown, Rick Famuyiwa, who apparently is a close acquaintance of the producer, Forest Whitaker. I'm not really sure how Pharrell Williams got involved as executive producer, but that's neither here nor there. I am just glad that more minorities are giving new and upcoming filmmakers a chance to show their craft. This film was nominated at the Cannes and Seattle film festival and actually won the award for editing at the Sundance film festival. I have to agree that the editing on this film was brilliantly done. When this film first started I was a little confused as to what decade I was in. There sat Malcolm (Shameik Moore) with a high-top fade sitting at the kitchen table. Then I spotted the cell phone (which is what confused me). The time period is cleared up rather quickly, so I was relieved by that. This story really is about a nerdy kid, Malcolm and his friends Jib (Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) who find themselves in unfamiliar territory and have to adjust their way of thinking in order deal with the situations that arises. There are many issue that are addressed in this film and there was even one scene that kind of paid homage to The Breakfast Club (which they actually mentioned in the film). There was also a little flavor of Boyz in the Hood and Cooley High (I know I'm dating myself, but oh well). Along the way, Malcolm finds himself head over heels for Nakia (Zoe Kravitz) who is affiliated with a somewhat shady guy (okay, really shady guy) named Dom (Rakim Mayers). This is where the whole mess gets started. One of the main points of the film (there were many) is the kind of expectations that people have of individuals that come out of the hood. As someone who grew up in the hood and "across the tracks" I can attest to that. It was fortunate that I grew up in a military family and was not afraid to leave. Most of the folks I grew up with are either dead, in jail or still live there. I did not think that I would like this film as much as I did. I think that they wrapped it up nicely and with a bit of a twist. I highly recommend this film.
  • Dope tells the story of Malcolm who is a promising college student who finds himself on the wrong side of the tracks when he attends an underground party and it is at this 'party' that Malcolm unwittingly acquires a large stash of drugs which two rival drug-dealers both claim to be their property. One of the drug-dealers is in police custody, but the other dealer is at large and will stop at nothing to get his hands on the drugs.

    In what I felt was a cross between Boyz N The Hood and City Of God, Dope is a film that to me tried to be everything all at once; it's a coming-of-age film, then it becomes a cat-and-mouse film, then it's a romance film, then it's a crime-caper type film. There's nothing wrong with combining all of these things, but in order to work a film like this has to have some kind of focus and that's really where a film like Dope falls down. In trying to do everything at once, it doesn't actually manage to really do anything very well and some of the strands of the story don't seem to get followed through properly (such as the drug-dealer chasing Malcolm for his drugs and what happened to Dom after he got arrested?). The romantic subplot between Malcolm and Dom's girl was underdeveloped (which was a shame as they clearly had a few things in common).

    I also felt that Dope was a film that just tried far too hard and seemed to sledgehammer its point home at almost every given opportunity; I think the worst example of this was when the girl kept hitting the white guy for using the N word - I mean I understand the message that Famuyiwa was trying to get across, but he completely overdoes things here and it made me cringe due to the heavy-handed and clumsy way that Famuyiwa played out this scenario.

    Dope is also chocked full of hipster dialogue but in an unfocused film with no solid narrative structure a lot of it just comes across as trite and boring. I could also criticise the film for offering nothing new to the genre, but that would be unfair as many films of this nature still have stories that are worth telling (no matter how unoriginal they are), but Dope was a film I could never get into and it's basically because it lacked any real intensity, it was unfocused and I never felt any connections to any of the characters. There is a twist to the story at the end which was quite amusing, but most of this film just fell flat for me.

    The only positive thing that I've got to say about this film is that the acting was generally good (particularly between the 3 leads), but I'm struggling to think of anything else that I liked about it in all honesty.
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