Dope: A Review


So I finally found the time to sit back and watch Dope.

Celebrated at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, and with a cast that immediately made me sit up and pay attention (with names A$AP Rocky, Zoe Kravitz, Chanel Iman and even a quick appearance from Tyga), I was ready and eager to watch a movie which had a story that I felt was easily relatable to 90s kids with a love of hip hop. Basically this film spoke to people like me.

Starring Shameik Moore as school geek Malcolm, the film centres on him and his two high school friends Diggy and Jib. Their obsession and love of 90s hip hop culture influences their music choices, their fashion and their slang.

Malcolm aspires to be a Harvard man, always getting straight A’s in his schoolwork, his aim being to get out of his neighbourhood that’s so rife with crime and gangs. He plays music with Jib and Diggy in their band Awreeoh – pronounced ‘Oreo’ (whose songs in the movie, along with the 90s hip hop classics that are used, are an added treat in the soundtrack), and he regularly avoids beatings from the school jocks, run ins with blood gangs in the streets, and dodging dealers that have the intent to steal their BMXs.

But Malcolm can’t avoid them all. One day, after Malcolm’s encounter with dope slanger Dom (played by A$AP), it’s not only the three friends’ appreciation of the good ol’ days of hip hop classics that brings them together. With one party Dom introduces them to a world of drugs and drink, shootouts and run-ins with the police. Soon the three must work together to help Malcolm complete one job that he has been burdened with.

Malcolm is thrown into the world of drug dealing when Dom’s party turns sour after a deal goes bad – police storm the place and Malcolm makes a run for it, eager to keep his geek reputation clean. Remember – this kid wants to go to Harvard.

But little does he know as he makes it back home safe, is that his backpack (which was so kindly left behind the bar thanks to Dom) is now filled with drugs from the deal and a gun.

From there Malcolm’s life soon becomes one new adventure after the next. Not only does he have the responsibility to get rid of the drugs, with the threat of his life and the lives of his friends and family being taken away, he must also prove to those that have become so accustomed to the world of drugs and dealing that he can succeed without getting caught or killed. He must face a life of underground dealings and the criminals that he’s tried so hard to avoid in order to get himself and his friends out of the mess. Luckily for them, Malcolm can use his intelligence and geeky knowledge to work hard on the task, in a way that limits their chances of their dealings being traced back to them, giving them an easy exit when it’s all said and done.

Mix all of that with his college interviews, new acquaintances in ladies Nakia (Zoe Kravitz) and Lily (Chanel Iman),  and the irony in that to escape a life of crime he must first participate in it, and Dope becomes one movie unlike most teen flicks.

What I liked most about Dope was that it was a contemporary movie with references to modern technology and with stars like A$AP Rocky, yet it also had a distinct nostalgic feel with 90s hip hop tracks, Gameboys and vinyls. Dope created a world that 90s kids like me constantly shape for ourselves. Sure, we may have advanced technology and social media now, but there’s no better feeling than going back to the days before responsibilities and deadlines – whether that means listening to 90s music, or adopting the styles from back then.

Haven’t seen Dope yet? Watch the trailer below to get a taste:

Did I mention that it’s Producer is Forest Whittaker, Executive Producer is Pharrell Williams, and it was co-executive produced by Sean Combs? Like you needed another reason to go and watch it already…

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