DOPE Makes You Think Twice

dopeIt’s been a while since I’ve seen a movie quite like DOPE.  The last time I saw something similar, about the plight of a young black man, was Clockers and Boyz N The Hood.

This story gives you a different perspective on how a group of friends overcome the obstacles of their poor neighborhood in Inglewood, California {Tyra Banks grew up in Inglewood}.  This coming-of-age story about three geeks who are obsessed with 90s Hip Hop, 90s clothing, and the 90s lifestyle, have their own band, are at the top of their class, and are kids that just can’t do any wrong.

Sure, they either lose their shoes or get beat up, but they also work together to defy the odds set against them.

Writer/director Rick Famuyiwa throws every single stereotype of a young black person in the inner city at you.  But it also makes you think twice about the story if you take color out of it.  What if this was just a regular honor roll student defying the odds of his situation?  Would Harvard immediately put his application at the top of the pile if he, a high school senior, managed to make a company $100,000 in three weeks?  Isn’t that what Ivy League schools want?

So what if he made that $100,000 by selling drugs?  He wasn’t out on the street corner dealing.  He was just a kid that got stuck in a very, very bad situation and had to do something about it.  He used his smarts.  He used technology.  He beat each and every system placed before him.  He refused to be another statistic.  He and his friends set out to beat a system that was always working against them.  He used his brains to beat every single thing working against him and his friends.

At the end of the movie you question what would happen if you took this inner city kid out of the neighborhood, stripped him of his skin color, his socio-economic status, his lack of heritage, and take away all of the stereotypes, and made him just human on paper.  Are the things he was able to do with the tools he was given enough to get into a school like Harvard?

There are two ways you can tell the story.  You can tell the story from the perspective of a group of poor black kids from the inner city, or the story about three young human beings that were defying the odds placed against them since day one.


If you want to know who the next big up and coming actors are, watch this film.  Shameik Moore (Malcolm) does a phenomenal job in this role.  [On a side note, after watching this film, I walked out into the hallway of the screening theater and Moore was standing right outside the door.  It was a definite pleasant surprise.]

Zoë Kravitz (daughter of Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz) also stars.  Tony Revolori (Jib) and Kiersey Clemons (Diggy) also star in the film.  There are guest appearances by Rick Fox and Chanel Iman (the model, this is her first film).  Forest Whitaker also has his hand in this film as well.

For those who want a modern take to the old classic of Boyz N The Hood, you have to see this.  It’s a movie that will make you think twice about the story.  It will even make you think twice about how you viewed the movie up until the end.

My favorite part of this movie was the choice of songs.  I knew every single song because they were songs that were popular when hip hop first started to gain rise in the 90s.  The way a drug dealer on the street could brilliantly talk about music, it made you realize that Famuyiwa was breaking down another stereotype that all drug dealers are uneducated and unintelligent, that they lack heart or are always trying to pull people down with them.  In other words, he is preaching again and again: never judge a book by its cover.

The film is due out in theaters Friday, June 19, 2015.  This is one of the most important films you need to see this summer.  It will make you think twice…and then still leave you thinking long after you’ve walked away from the film.

Applause all around.

This review from The Verge is spot-on and a must read supplemental.

On Twitter:

Shameik Moore: @meaksworld
Rick Famuyiwa: @RickFamuyiwa
DOPE: @DopeMovie