‘Dope’ Revisits the ’Hood, With Joy and Wit

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Jon Caramanica, THE NEW YORK TIMES

(The New York Times) — When Shameik Moore got the part of Malcolm, the soft guy in a tough world at the heart of the film “Dope,” he had a problem.

“Dope” is an answer to, a repudiation of, a reconciliation with the streetwise black cinema of the early 1990s, films like “Juice,” “Boyz N the Hood,” “Menace II Society” and more. But Mr. Moore, who is just 20 and spent much of his youth in Christian schools, hadn’t seen any of those foundational films. So for a week before filming began, he embarked on a crash course guided by Rick Famuyiwa, the writer-director of “Dope.”

What Mr. Moore found was context, but not, strictly speaking, inspiration. “I think what Rick did, how he shot it and edited it, makes it similar,” Mr. Moore said, “but how we performed is totally opposite.”

That’s because “Dope,” opening on June 19, is a sort of photonegative of those films, keeping their structure while upending their conventions — almost a “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” approach to that era. Winks to those films are sprinkled throughout “Dope,” but the harshness of that era, and its reliance on gangster narratives, is largely replaced with joy and wit. They’re relatives, but ones kept at arm’s length.

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