Rick Famuyiwa (2015)

Last Featured: Aug. 15, 2017

Image Credits: Open Road Films

Malcom, one of the “smart kids” growing up in a rough South Central LA neighborhood, wants to be an achiever. Gang activity and drug use are pervasive around him, but his goals are high. Harvard is his dream.

Arguably, the film that propelled Tom Cruise to stardom was Risky Business, the story of a young man who runs into trouble while exploring the freedom of his newly found adulthood. Dope is an updated version of this story. We wouldn’t dare call it a copy, but they surely share some DNA.

High-school geek Malcom Adekanbi is one of few of the smart, responsible students growing up in his crime-riddled neighborhood. Gang activity and drugs pervade the area, but he does his best to steer clear so that he can attend Harvard, a lofty dream for a kid from “The Bottoms.”

One fateful day, Malcom is corralled by local drug dealer Dom (played by hip-hop artist A$AP Rocky). Dom sends Malcolm as an emissary to invite a girl to his party, and after some persuasion she agrees to go—as long as Malcolm does too. Malcom knows better, but the allure of such a party, and seeing the beautiful girl there, is too much to resist. From there, his life spins wildly and dangerously out of control as his concerns move from college applications to staying alive and out of prison.

Dope is one of those standout, special films that cinephiles might wait years for. It’s fresh in its perspective, often moving between hilarious and heartfelt before coming to its reality check of an ending.