Teen nerds navigating the mean streets of Inglewood, California — that’s the spark that ignites Dope, a woozy but wild comic ride from writer-director Rick Famuyiwa (The Wood), whose obsession with Nineties hip-hop, BMX bikes, skateboards, manga comics and “other shit white people like” helps to define the film’s main character.
That’s Malcolm, played by Shameik Moore in a smashing breakout performance. Malcolm (catch the flattop) fronts a punk band with his besties Jib (Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons, both crazy good), aspires to Harvard and is such a throwback that bullies want to crush him. Thuggish Dom (A$AP Rocky) asks Malcolm to hook him up with hottie Nakia (Zoë Kravitz). But at a club, there’s a shootout and Dom’s dope ends up in Malcolm’s backpack, plus a gun, forcing the geeks to go gangsta. No spoilers on what happens next. Just know that Famuyiwa keeps the action spinning with vibrant speed and rare sensitivity. He’s made a comedy of social expectation that plays like an exhilarating gift.