Dope (2015) Review
What could have been a comedic spin on an authentic and real situation, Dope is instead one long cringe-fest. Find out more by reading the full review!
Director/Writer: Rick Famuyiwa
Stars: Shameik Moore (Malcolm), Tony Revolori (Jib), Kiersey Clemons (Diggy), A$AP Rocky (Dom)
Going into Dope (2015), I thought I would be watching an authentic story of a young man being dropped into a world of drugs, crime and living life ‘on the streets’ so to speak. Now, before I go any further I should state that the culture that Malcom’s character enters isn’t exactly something that someone of my background has experience in, but the world of the film seems so unrealistic that even I am confident in saying that there is little to no authenticity here. Instead, this is simply an excuse to use the same coming-of-age narratives in a setting that has not yet been worn-out for this type of film. I feel this is why some reviewers have called Dope and its characters fresh and original. In fact they are anything but. The characters are so bland that they have absolutely no believability about them and are as two-dimensional as they come. The love interest in the movie has absolutely no real reason for getting with the guy in the end, it only happening because it is another beat that the filmmakers needed to hit in order to make a movie in this genre. Malcolm’s friends are a lesbian and a wimpy guy, who we never see any sort of character development for at all. I don’t think someone who has watched this movie once could even say what their names are after coming out of the cinema. A$AP Rocky plays a character that seems as though they will be important in the plot, but is simply forgotten rather quickly instead. You get the idea. We also never really get to see the true culture of street life in LA, never get to feel what any of the character’s lives are like. This is thanks to both poor writing and absolutely abysmal cinematography that often is so jarring you just want to look away.
Unfortunately, not only is Dope (2015) incredibly inauthentic, but it ends up becoming more and more cringy as time goes on. Malcolm and co. play in a band that plays music throughout the film occasionally, which is a studio quality recording with production that plays over while the actors pretend to play like in a Disney kids movie. At one point we even see their spread on social media in a scene that is just trying so hard to be ‘down with the kids’. As this scene takes place we also see how their particular batch of MDMA is gaining popularity. A drug that director/writer Famuyiwa obviously has no idea of the effects of, as can be seen from this section of the Wikipedia plot summary: “Lily finds the molly in his backpack and gives herself a heavy dose. She straddles Malcolm and vomits on his face. … She is still high and drives recklessly through the streets until she passes out. … Lily springs up, yelling that she has to pee. She runs out of the car and squats to pee on a bush in front of a coffee shop while bystanders stare and record the incident.” This incident is then turned into a meme in the film’s world, which somehow makes everyone want to try this drug. Another terrible, unknowledgeable, try-hard aspect is Malcolm’s hacker friend, who can hack into anything by just plugging his laptop into the server room for two seconds and tries to explain Bitcoin and darknet markets to the audience. The whole film ends up reeking of an old man trying to understand what the kids are into these days, as opposed to the authentic tale I thought it was going to be. Such an absolute disappointment and waste of time.