Here is what I really loved about Rick Famuyiwa's 2015 crime drama, Dope:
1. The soundtrack is absolutely killer. It fits every scene flawlessly.
2. Act 1 and Act 2.
3. The three leads in Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori (The Grand Budapest Hotel), and Kiersey Clemons. Their rapport between each other was rather charming and very fun to watch.
Here is what I didn't like about Rick Famuyiwa's Dope:
Pretty much the entirety of Act 3.
Dope sees a geeky African-American, Malcom along with his two equally geeky best friends, Jib and Diggy. The three are highly into 90s hip-hop culture and style, a sort of hipster-ish deviation from retro beer and 1970s hair-dos and lumberjack attire. Without knowing much about the movie before my viewing of it, I was pleasantly surprised to realize it indeed, was not set in the 1990s as it would seem to have you believe in the opening scenes. The three friends are straight-A, straight edge high school seniors, all looking to make names for themselves with their unique academic skill sets, being from The Bottoms of Los Angeles, California.
What sends everything spiraling out of control however, is a whimsical visit to a drug dealer's birthday bash. Now, stuck with enough Molly to send an elephant into a psyche ward, Malcom, Diggy, and Jib are up sh*t creek, with everyone from Bloods to highly invested drug dealers breathing down their necks. So sets up what initially is an extremely fun and creative take on a coming-of-age crime drama/comedy. The music is bumping, the pacing is great, the dialogue is smart, and the cinematography is crisp. Yet ultimately, the evolving story (or lack thereof) is what brings the whole party to a standstill. Cue in Act 3.
Without revealing any deal breaking spoilers, what I will say about this unfortunate break in what is otherwise a very well thought out film, is that it doesn't seem to know how to wrap itself up. The tension builds for Malcom and his friends, the stakes are raised, and that is where everything goes from being tonally fun and understandably fantastical, to "now let's get serious, ignoring the context of what we were doing earlier in this movie". The movie begins to take itself too seriously, whereas that was absolutely not the case in the first two acts, where the actors begin to spell out the consequences and implications of the film to the audience, something that was blatantly unnecessary given how the film initially started and continued into its second act.
This tonal and structural shift in Dope was simply jarring enough to have pulled me out of what began as a highly enjoyable film. I found myself going from big smiles and heartfelt chuckles to scoffs and eye rolls as the movie wound down. These were feelings I was surprised I was having, after such a strong start and continuance of such themes and nuances. Unfortunately, that was a bit of a wet blanket for me on what I would have thought to be a real gem of a movie. That said, I would not be shocked if Dope's divisive third act were to warrant the film to become a cult hit. I'm almost positive that a cult status will indeed be placed on the culturally rooted fifth film by director, Rick Famuyiwa. For me however, it was a great film that fell as hard as it initially landed.
Let us know what your experience with Dope was in the comments below!
- Josh Doherty