Dope is unique. A mishmash of genres, original storytelling and strong direction make it a drug-trip well worth your time.
Dope is directed by Rick Famuyai and stars relative newcomer Shameik Moore as Malcolm, a 90s geek who gets mixed up with the wrong crowd in his home region of Inglewood California. Dope constantly deals with sub-plots, character moments and twists, making it a pleasantly unpredictable ride. There’s no other film I know of quite like Dope – its a melding of many many genres, such as comedy, drama, romance, crime, coming of age… It gives the film a wholeheartedly unique and cheery tone which is one of its biggest pluses. Unfortunately due to its many elements, Dope does sometimes feels aimless, although never for particularly long. There’s also a few sub-plots that don’t feel properly resolved which is a bit of a negative.
The direction of Famuyai is a big reason Dope works as well as it does. Famuyai also wrote the movie (which is always a good sign), and has worked on the odd film for the last decade and a half, but this seems like the first that has the possibility of breaking into the cultural Zeitgeist. And he mostly nails it. Everything from the 90s influence, to the music and the techniques creates a very confident, enthusiastic tone. Famuyai utilises cut aways, slow motion, split-screen, cross cutting and more, and it all works. There is however a pseudo-fourth wall break at the end of the film which is very jarring as it had never been used or hinted at up to that point. Speaking of which, a big element of the ending doesn’t quite work. There’s a bit too much telling and explanation, and coupled with the meta influence, its a bit off-putting. But other than that, the direction of the film very competent and unique.
Shameik Moore as the protagonist Malcolm is exceptional. His small profile arguably helps his performance as unless you’re heavily familiar with his small body of work, he embodies the geeky, intelligent, awkward character. The supporting cast isn’t quite as good as the main lead but still solid. Tony Revoliori and Kiersey Clemons play friends of the main character, and they do a very competent job and bounce off Moore well. Many of the ancillary characters are also quite unique and make lasting impressions. The one flop in the cast is Zoe Kravitz as Moore’s main love interest Nakia. She doesn’t do a bad job, but the character often feels lost in the many sub-plots and isn’t particularly interesting.
Regardless, Dope is certainly worth seeking out. Its eclectic, unique, delivers a strong performance by its lead and signals a promising future career for director Rick Famyui. Give it a sniff and I’m sure you’ll enjoy the trip.
General Audiences: Recommended
Film Buffs: Highly Recommended
ARt Housers: Recommended