Dope

***1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Malcolm is carefully surviving life in a tough neighborhood in Los Angeles while juggling college applications, academic interviews, and the SAT. A chance invitation to an underground party leads him into an adventure that could allow him to go from being a geek, to being dope, to ultimately being himself.
"The film has charm, due in most parts to Shameik Moore's performance"

This high school/gangsta mix is unusual in that Malcolm (Shameik Moore), the black hero and self confessed teen geek, product of a single mother, living in Inglewood's low rent ghetto, has aspirations to go to Harvard. It makes a change from Boys N The Hood and Straight Outta Compton where intellectual rigour is the last thing on their minds.

"Don't settle for what's expected," is Malcolm's mantra.

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He comes up against the usual racist apologies, especially from the school principal who pays lip service to cultural equality while snorting with indignation when a snazzily dressed kid with a sculptured haircut and unsophisticated social skills talks of the most prestigious university in the land as his ticket out of The Bottom.

The film has charm, due in most parts to Moore's performance. Malcolm may be shy with the girls, but his retro style and fascination with 90s hip hop while playing in what he calls a punk band with his buds Jib and Diggy is hardly geekish.

Once the characters have been formally introduced an Enemy Of The State intervention occurs which alters the direction of the storyline. In the Will Smith thriller someone slips an incriminating tape into his pocket when he's not looking which results in the bad guys coming after him. In Dope someone slips 10 kilos of drugs into Malcolm's bag at a party with similar consequences.

The difference this time is that Malcolm doesn't settle for the expected and instead of dumping the illegal substances in a trash bin before cops or gangsters track him down he makes use of it in the school lab and starts dealing himself.

No one could accuse Dope of being Breaking Bad - The Early Years. It doesn't have the chops. Narrated by Forest Whitaker it has an easy, squeeze me ride. Malcolm's love life should have ended in a drive-by, or trapped in a dark alley with nowhere to run. There are rules in the hood and having aspirations for a posh whitey college ain't one of them. Stealing someone else's stash isn't either.

If nothing else, and there is a good deal else, you will remember Shameik Moore. He has charisma in triplicate and feels at times like Eddie Murphy's love child - not the sentimental Eddie but the early Eddie when he had the whole world in his hands.

Reviewed on: 02 Sep 2015
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Dope packshot
Self confessed teen geek from the wrong side of the tracks in Inglewood, Cal, with aspirations to go to Harvard, is compromised by a stash of drugs and threats from gangster crews.
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Director: Rick Famuyiwa

Writer: Rick Famuyiwa

Starring: Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons, Zoë Kravitz, Kimberly Elise, A$AP Rocky

Year: 2015

Runtime: 115 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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