Saturday, July 11, 2015

Dope (Brockway)


Rick Famuyiwi (Talk to Me, The Wood) directs "Dope" a madcap and good natured film that explores the interplay of teens friendship and crime in an increasingly hostile urban landscape.

Malcolm (Shemeik Moore) is a bookish and spaced out African American teenager. He is too smart for most and often shell-shocked by the goings on he witnesses.

Rather than face the dizzy ways of this century, Malcolm, with his two friends Jib (Tony Revolori) and female friend Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) immerses himself in 1990s hip hop music.

On the way home, he comes to a roadblock, manned by a drug dealer named Dom, well played by rapper A$AP Rocky.

Dom forces Malcolm to give a spoken message to his girl Nakia (Zoe Kravitz) urging her to go to a party, to make amends to her. Nakia invites Malcolm, with Dom approving.

Malcolm reluctantly agrees but his friends are ecstatic.

What follows is a zany, but violently anxious goose-chase with Malcolm and his friends caught in it all.  Though some of the drama feels like "Boyz  'n the Hood," it is more like a "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" version of black films in the 1990s. It is both a spoof of sorts and a commentary tribute and plays excellently.

The film has a quick and loose style with prepubescent pitfalls that never stop coming. Each character in this story is drawn with a neon brilliance, but despite the craziness, not one of the roles seems a cartoon.

Much of the frenzy has to do with guns, fear and drugs, but not once to its credit, does it reach maudlin heights of disbelief. The action is well balanced by the spacey wonder and nervousness of Malcolm as he meets each motley and often dangerous character.

This is no cynical or gritty expose of a cement wilderness. Rather, it is about three kids who want to have fun and make something of themselves, even though they are in danger of being squelched by adults who are angry and egotistical.

The refreshing element about "Dope" is that it contains so many aspects: a spoof, a conceptual tribute, a teen comedy, and even a thriller. But the best side of all is that it shows Malcolm as both an existential commentator and a trickster who turns society's arrogance to his best advantage.

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