Dope (2015) ★★★★☆

The title says it all. 

Straight-A student, Malcolm (Shameik Moore) is brought up in a town otherwise known as ‘the bottom’. Obsessed with 90’s hip hop, Malcolm is also part of a band with his friends, Jib (Tony Revolori), and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons). Especially applying for Harvard, it is proving impossible for him to keep his grades on track when there is trouble arising in his crime-ridden neighbourhood. Things start to go downhill for him and his friends as they find themselves stuck with a ton of dope to sell.

Dope takes a slightly unique approach to the typical ‘drug-orientated/gang’ sub-genre of film with a unconventional outlook. The film deeply explores the message regarding being constantly surrounded by poverty and criminal elements, and that sometimes there is no way to avoid trouble, no matter how hard you try. It’s powerful and moving, though it is also remarkably humourous. Shameik Moore makes his debut as a truly impressive newcomer, and one would imagine we will be seeing more of him in the near future. For the majority of cases, the label, “geek”, is not at all endearing. But that doesn’t stop Malcolm from aiming higher than his address or the colour of his skin. And this is not the only message the film brings to light. Surprisingly, it’s pretty jam-packed as an indie feature; tongue-in-cheek jokes regarding the use of the N-word, and even LGBT sentiments. Narrated by Academy Award winner, Forrest Whitaker, and featuring a catchy soundtrack that is Pharrell Williams-produced and approved, Dope ticks all the boxes in terms of sound. Certainly fast paced – especially for a running time of 103 minutes, but it’s bloody entertaining.

Packed with witty dialogue, and a memorable soundtrack; Dope is stylish, heaps of fun and perhaps the most underrated film of the year so far. A very different take to the coming-of-age genre, and does so in a completely compelling and original format. A must-see!

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