Having done the festivals round, now making a stop at this year's Edinburgh International Film Festival is Rick Famuyiwa's Dope - one film I've been eagerly anticipating for some time now. Fresh, fun and unprecedented, here's my review of the film.

High-school students Malcolm (Shameik Moore) and his friends Jib (Tony Revolori) and Duffy (Kiersey Clemons) are geeks. Obsessed with hip-hop and everything 90s, dressing like a character straight out of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, they are your class A geeks. Growing up in the rough hood of Ingleborough, where gangsters rule the streets and crime is the norm, they are mocked for their aspirations and for being different; their interest in "white people shit."

However, when Malcolm's bag is stolen and used by a local dealer to stash a load of drugs, the trio are brought into the dirty world of California. With rival gun-toting gangs and other factions after the stash, the group are dragged into a wild adventure across Los Angeles as they use their wit and intelligence to keep the "dope" on the streets and themselves out of danger, all whilst preserving their good reputations and, for Malcolm, making sure nothing stops him from going to Harvard. There's also bad choices, bad people and a whole load of trouble all thrown into the mix for good measure too.

In a year so chock full of sequels, reboots and unoriginal ideas, Dope is the underdog: fresh and unprecedented. It's unique. It's audacious. And it's great. This is, by far, one of the most original films to grace the big-screen in the last few years. The ingenuity behind the premise of the film and it's execution is a rarity in film these days and is so welcomed in Dope. Director Rick Famuyiwa has infused so much energy into the proceedings, packing all sorts of ideas into his project. This is a coming-of-age story at its core but there's also flavourings of a 90s flick, a comedy, an adventure, a romance, a thriller and even a bit of an action. There's so much crammed in.

As for the direction of this film, the style is brilliant. Famuyiwa makes nice use of cinematic techniqies such as flashbacks, voiceover,  screen splits and freeze frames. It's never too much though and is also used so beautifully; like an artist's fine stroke of colours on a blank canvas. Dope is set in modern day times but there's a nice, funky 90s feel to the proceedings - made so by our 90s living protagonists. The film is shot beautifully too and the cinematography is gorgeous; there's some stunning camera work and sequences on display here.
There's a great energy to the proceedings and I think that's what makes this so incredible. So nuanced and exuberant, this is one hell of a thrill ride. The shenanigans our characters get up to are so crazy and unusal all whilst being thoroughly entertaining and the premise of the film is just so wild and fun. The energy is infectious. The light-hearted, quick-paced madness is always when the film's at its best. There's a lot of quirky wit and charisma present and Dope can genuinely be quite funny at times and the story is engaging and unique too. There's a lot of warmth and heart, brought mainly by the cast.

The performances, all around, in this picture are tremendous, from everyone on-screen, and they only add to the nuance and chaos and fun that unfolds in Dope. Kiersey Clemons is witty and wonderful and brings a nice, innocent charm to the proceedings. Revolori is great too, as is Zoƫ Kravitz, who is the best she's ever been in a film before. She is fitting in the badass, bad girl role. Although, the love story arc involving her character falls a bit flat as it's never developed too much. Frankly, everyone is so good. There's palpabale chemistry between all the actors too, especially the main three. And, of course, this helps in selling these characters more and getting us more invested in them and in the plot of the film.

However, it's Shameik Moore that is the actor really worth talking about here. This kid sure as hell knows how to act. He does remarkably well in this film, as Malcolm. You see his struggle as this intelligent, different coloured boy - almost outcast - but he never demands the audience's sympathy. He never tries to get our attention. He never tries to be something he's not and that's what makes this film so great and the characters so great; how real and raw they are. You believe in Malcolm though and you root for him to succeed. You buy into him as this geek and you buy into him as a gangster too. You can see the terror in Malcolm's eyes, the fear of his dream to go to Harvard getting shattered and the fear of ending dead in a ditch somewhere. And, it's all credit to a phenomenal, effervescent Moore.

The heart of the film is an ambitious one. The film's message boasts the ideals of equality; it doesn't matter who you are and where you come from but you can achieve anything if you work hard enough. Everyone should dream big and reach for the stars because everyone has the potential to get there. It's a sweet, necessary message for everyone to take on-board - more so considerimg all the distraught ongoing in the world right now. However, the film does contradict itself at times when our lead trio get the respect of some bad people by doing bad things, showing that not being yourself to garner the respect of people is acceptable. The message is respectable but it gets a bit muddied by the time the credits roll. The plot does too. The premise can become a little convoluted and inohesive at times, going from one direction to another.

Overall, Dope is a wonderful film. Laden with wit and humour, this is a unique film that is energetic, entertaining and fun. There's a few inconsistencies with the story of the picture and things like that but they're nothing too major and easily disposable. This is a fun film. It's a damn good, thrilling time at the cinema. And that's what matters. Don't even get me started on the simply astounding and stylish soundtrack: one of the best of the year.

VERDICT:
Dope is the underdog of 2015; an ingenious, fresh new arthouse indie. Wildly entertaining and entertainigly wild, this is the must-see thrill ride of the year.
★★★★☆

Dope opens September 4th, 2015.


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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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