HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:82
To say that “Dope” has a rather musically based cast and crew is an understatement. Behind the scenes we have some of the biggest rap stars and musicians producing and financing the film. Big time names like Sean “Diddy” Combs, Pharrell Williams, A$ap Rocky, and the list goes on. However, as much as the names are big behind the screen, the near unknown actors are what really make this quirky little film a blast. In many ways “Dope” feels like Spike Lee actually allowed humor into his narratives and mashed it together with a typical clichéd coming of age story and voila, here we have it. Had it not been for the razor sharp wit of the writing and the fantastic performance by the leads, “Dope” might have been overlooked. Thankfully that is not the case, and while the movie is not perfect, it has a charm and style that is invigorating and poignant, even in today’s society.
Malcolm (Shameik Moore) and his best friends, Diggy (Kiersey Clemons), and Jib (Tony Revolori) are your average teenagers living in South L.A. Going to school is a bit of a challenge, as they are faced with the stereotypical problems related to living where they live. If you’ve heard one description of the ghetto, then you’ve heard them all. Poor families, gangs on the streets, being taken seriously academically and the like. The thing is. Malcolm and his friend aren’t your typical black kids in the hood. Malcolm especially, as he’s king of the “geeks” (as he admits freely). A near perfect GPA, perfect SAT scores and a brilliant mine have him on his way to Harvard University (at least that’s his goal). Demeaned by his guidance counselor and belittled by the jocks, Malcolm has his life cut out for him, but that all changes (for both better and worse) when he stops to talk to the beautiful Nakia (Zoe Kravitz).
Going to a birthday party for the local drug dealer so that he can get close to Nakia, Malcolm ends up being slipped a TON of the party drug, Molly, via his backpack. Coming out of the raid clean, he’s now entreated to deliver the product to the recipient of the original buy, only to find out that it’s his guidance interviewer for getting into Harvard. Forcing Malcolm to sell the drugs on the street, the counselor puts the young boy in an awkward position. This is nothing for Malcolm though, as he adapts to the challenges thrown his way and manages to move the product at an alarming rate, while wrestling with his own inner conflicts over the morality of the sales as well as terrified for his life and future in Harvard if he refuses.
“Dope” was wildly hyped when it came out along the film nerd circles as well as by critics alike. I never did get to go see it in theaters, but anticipated the home video release quite a bit. I have to say that I was really impressed by what I saw, but I also noticed some glaringly obvious attempts at trying to shoehorn in social commentaries that just really fell flat for me. The good thing is, that when the movie is good, it’s REALLY good. Malcolm and his two buddies work like nothing I’ve ever seen. Their relationship and interactions are completely organic and believable as teens in their last year of high school. There’s stupidity, there’s anticipation of the future, and even a bit of brilliance among them. Zoe Kravitz is really the only weak point in the film, as she irritates me greatly with her “acting” ability. Luckily she’s only in the film about 10-15 minutes so it’s not too bad.
As I said, the stories wit and charm are what really hold the film together. It’s shot with a sort of scatterbrained filming style, jumping from scene to scene with an almost Tarantino style of ADD infused fade outs, and the razor sharp bits of humor really had me rolling on the floor. It never feels pretentious or dull, instead the humor and heart is infectious and invigorating. The movie is never predictable and I was honestly sitting on the edge of my seat wondering how they were going to wrap things up. The middle act of the film stumbles a bit, and meanders around, but the actual end of the film is well worth the wait. My only complaint came from the speech given by Malcolm in the middle of the street near the very very end. It was obvious that it was trying to make a social commentary there, but it came off so ridiculously ham fisted and without any real subtlety that it brought the momentum to a screeching halt. They immediately switch gears and jump back into the quirky flow of the film, but that little speech at the end feels like a square peg going into a round hole, for lack of a better term.
Rated R for language, drug content, sexuality/nudity, and some violence-all involving teens | See all certifications »
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=56146[/img]“Dope” happens to come with a simply dazzling 1080p encode, completely shot digitally and sparkling with detail. There is a bit of a flat look to the film due to the digital sourcing, but the image pops with tons of colors and slightly yellowed image. The 90’s clothing and hair styles are amusing to the viewer, but have that pizazz that only the 90’s could have (the afro flat top that Malcolm wears had me chuckling more than once as well as his orange BMX bike). Detail is razor sharp and well balanced between close up shots and long shots alike. I noticed no signs of banding or digital manipulation in the slightest, and the black levels are deep and inky, whether it be in the club where Dom celebrates his birthday, or in the brightness of the L.A. city. Contrast levels are sometimes boosted a bit, but only ever so slightly.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=56154[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track fares just as well, with an aggressive mix that works well for the 90’s hip hop infused soundtrack. Drums and R&B beats hit hard and heavy, with massive waves of LFE for that midrange chest thump. The surrounds get an equal work out from the music, and allow for a very immersive musical experience. As you can guess from what I’ve just said, music plays a big part in the film, taking up a great deal of the sonic experience. However, dialog is crisp and clean, with crystal clear vocal replication to boot. Dynamic range is actually quite wide, with scenes of whisper quite dialog punctuated with loud gunshots or the pounding bass of the Hip hop tracks.
• "Dope" Is Different
• "Dope" Music
I really ended up enjoying “Dope” more than I thought I would. It’s a wildly entertaining film that thrives on taking a predictable back story and turning it inside out to become as unpredictable as possible. The rather unknown cast really shines as they form bonds that transcend traditional films and makes the movie that much more enjoyable. It’s a funky in a narrative sense, but the payoff is well worth the watch, despite some fluctuations with the acting ability of Zoe Kravitz and the meandering 2nd act. Audio and video are stunning, with fantastic presentations. The only real weak point to the package is the anemic extras. Still definitely recommended.
Starring: Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons
Directed by: Rick Famuyiwa
Written by: Rick Famuyiwa
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 103 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: October 13th 2015
Buy Dope On Blu-ray at Amazon
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