One for the hip hop heads. So this is a story about a young African-American self-described geek named Malcolm (Shameik Moore). He’s into 90’s hip-hop and he is attempting to get into Harvard, all the while trying to survive in the tough neighborhood of Inglewood. After a wild night at a birthday party in a club, his life gets thrown a significant curve ball: he finds himself with the title of the film in a very substantial amount. Now I have heard good things about this, but I honestly really didn’t know what to expect. Come to find that it is actually a very fresh take on the coming of age movie, and I mean fresh in both the traditional sense and the slang sense.
Now believe it or not, I used to be big into hip hop back in the early 00’s despite my Caucasian…ness, so I did catch almost all of the references made here, and I was also able to relate to this in some vicarious suburban sort of way. One thing I really don’t think I can undersell is how great the soundtrack to this is. While you may question why these kids are so obsessed with 90’s fashion and hip hop when it takes place modern day, it gives them a great excuse to play some of the best songs of the genre. It has a healthy mix between throwbacks and original numbers that helps the pacing be as efficient as it can be, and it’s the type of soundtrack that makes you want to go out immediately afterwards and purchase it, or, at the very least, save it to your favorites on Spotify. This is a movie that has an unmistakable energy about it, and the lively pulse that it has really lends itself to the story being told. When I say that this is a coming of age story, I really do mean it; this is like Stand by Me, only modern and updated to fit the urban culture that these kids live in.
As far as the script goes, this is filled with surprises in the best way possible. It’s a crime misadventure, and it is never afraid to show you how a situation can go from bad to worse. There is a lot of young, raw talent on display with the acting; all of these actors are pretty green, but it’s more in the manner that you say to yourself, “Oh, this kid is so good, why haven’t I seen him in anything else before?” The writing and the direction is inspired, and it is the kind of the movie that you want to see succeed. Dope lives up to its name, and my rating reflects that.
Dope (2015) ****1/2
– Critic for Hire
Want to see where this fell in my list of best films of the 2015? See for yourself here.