Providing comedy to serious issues can be complicated. One needs to be able to properly convey the importance of the situation while at the same time providing humor. For example one scene in the new film Dope features a kid getting hit by a stray bullet and dying. The narrator (Forest Whitaker) says that the irony is that the slain child was about to beat a hard level in Super Mario. This type of humor has a sort of eerie quality to it. Making jokes about gangs and violence provides a sort of cavalier attitude towards the issue, which is probably how those living in the situation have come to view it. Dope though, nailed it in their approach to making a movie that takes place in the hood, but isn’t about the hood.
Dope follows the encounters of Malcolm (Shameik Moore) and his two friends Jib (Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons). They live in the Inglewood neighborhood in Los Angeles, which is considered one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the city and is aptly called “the bottoms.” Malcolm doesn’t fit into the area he lives in as he loves all things 90s and is a geek. He and his friends stick out and this makes his life very complicated. A local drug dealer named Dom (A$AP Rocky) takes an interest in him, and invites him to his birthday party. While at the party there is gang fight and the police show up. Dom who is in possession of kilos of Molly secretly stashes it in Malcolm’s bag and tells him to leave the party. What follows is a mad dash where Malcolm must find a way to get rid of the drugs while not damaging his Harvard aspirations.
The real surprises of the film are the acting by A$AP Rocky also known as Rakim Mayers and Shameik Moore. You wouldn’t know that this film features Rocky’s acting debut and Moore’s big screen debut as both actors hold their own. Zoe Kravitz is also a nice revelation as a crush of Malcolm’s.
If the film suffers from anything it is at times breaking from the mold that makes the beginning so compelling. Somewhere in the middle of the film it starts to feel as if Hollywood is influencing the direction of the independent film. Sometimes the location, which at the beginning is a character in itself, gets lost. Nonetheless the movie was really good (and I am just playing the devils advocate). The film is a great comedic tale about selling drugs and growing up in a tough neighborhood, which most directors haven’t explored in the same way.