Written and directed by Rick Famuyiwa, ‘Dope’ is an accurate depiction of the struggles that black teenagers face in a tough neighborhood. Starring Shameik Moore as Malcolm Adekanbi, Tony Revolori as Jib, and Kiersey Clemons as Diggy, this movie is produced by Forest Whitaker and Nina Yang Bongiovi. First premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015, this movie garnered lots of appreciation for its accurate portrayal of life in a rough neighborhood and for touching on many complex themes, including the deep-rooted drug issue. This coming-of-age movie mainly revolves around three high school geeks and their wild adventures as they accidentally end up with a bag of drugs. The interesting plot, entertaining script, and depth in the characters give the audience an inside look into the city and the neighborhood of Inglewood, California. Opening with the three definitions of the term dope- an illegal drug, a stupid person, and the slang term for awesome, ‘Dope’ encompasses all of the above! SPOILERS AHEAD!
Dope Plot Summary
Set in Inglewood, California, in a neighborhood called The Bottoms, ‘Dope’ follows the story of Malcolm, a highly intelligent black high school kid, and his friends Jib and Diggy. They are all obsessed with the ‘90s hip-hop music, enjoy skating and have a punk band of their own. Even though Malcolm and his friends carefully survive in a crime-high neighborhood every day, that doesn’t stop them from dreaming big. And Malcolm aspires to attend Harvard University. After a chance invitation to a drug dealer Dom’s birthday party, one thing leads to another, and the next day he discovers a significant amount of drugs in his bag that was placed by Dom. After receiving a call from an unknown caller who threatens Malcolm to turn them over, they decide to get rid of it and deliver it to the caller. Before Malcolm could hand off the drugs, Dom calls from jail, warning him not to turn them over and gives him instructions to take it to someone named AJ.
After reaching AJ’s address, Malcolm and his friends are greeted by AJ’s son and daughter, but as their dad is not home they end up hanging out together and making music. Later Malcolm has to leave for his interview with Harvard alumni immediately, but after meeting him, a surprising revelation leaves Malcolm in shock as he is now compelled to do something against his morals to secure admission at Harvard.
Malcolm and his nerd friends come up with a new plan to sell the drugs with little to no risk to themselves and contact their hacker-druggie friend, Wil Sherwood for help. On paper, their plan seems full proof, but this could either solve all their problems or land them in jail, or even worse, get them caught in an ugly situation where they end up dead. A seemingly simple birthday party turned the lives of three innocent nerds upside down and now they have to overcome challenges stay alive and have a chance to go to college.
Dope Ending: How Does Malcolm End up With The Drugs?
One day, heading home from school Malcolm and his friends are forced to take an unusual route where the drug dealers hang out. At the very junction, Malcolm is fetched by the neighborhood drug dealer Dom, who asks him to persuade Nakia to come to his birthday party. After Nakia agrees to attend the party, provided he would too, Malcolm and his friends decide to go. As the rival gang members break into Dom’s party with their guns blazing, everybody starts running, and there is panic at the club. In this chaos, Dom ducks under the bar table to take cover, where he finds Malcolm’s bag. He grabs the bag, puts the drugs in it, and gives it to Malcolm, asking him to leave immediately.
The next day at school, when Malcolm walks through the metal detector that goes off, he looks into his bag and is shocked to find a huge amount of ‘molly’ with a gun in it. He panics, and they all rush to the band room. He realizes that Dom was the one who put drugs in his bag during the shootout, and now he is doomed. Suddenly a phone starts ringing from inside his bag, and an unknown caller demands that Malcolm hand over all the drugs to him later that day.
But Malcolm couldn’t get rid of it as Dom called right before he was heading to hand the bag to the caller, warning him that this could all be a trap. The caller could be a cop or a snitch, and either way, their lives are in danger. He instructs Malcolm to take the bag to a guy named AJ and gave him the address. The three nerds, desperate to get rid of the drugs, go to AJ’s house.
Who is AJ? Why Did The Interview Leave a Huge Impact on Malcolm?
Malcolm, Jib, and Diggy arrive at the huge mansion, where they are welcomed by AJ’s son and daughter, Jaleel and Lily. As AJ isn’t at home, they all hang out at their place and even spend time making some music. Jib and Diggy leave with Jaleel to buy some burgers while Malcolm decides to stay with Lily. As unfortunate circumstances unfold, Jib and Diggy end up escaping the burger place where the caller followed them into, while Malcolm is fooled by Lily to steal some drugs, and right then, he gets a call for his interview with Harvard alumni.
Lily offers to drive Malcolm to the interview, but high on drugs, she drives recklessly, passes out at the stop sign, and then rushes across the road to pee in the bushes. Malcolm has no other choice than to drive himself to the office. As he enters the room, he spots photos of Dom, Jalee, and Lily in the office. Harvard alumni Austin Jacoby greets Malcolm, and soon he realizes that Jacoby is AJ, the guy that Dom had instructed to give the bag to.
Malcolm asks Jacoby if he about Dom and tells him about the bag of drugs that he was supposed to bring to him. Using Amazon as an example, Jacoby explains the ‘slippery slope’ and the consequences that would impact his reputation as a seller. He doesn’t want the botched delivery, he wants the money. He implicitly says, “If you’re able to do this, it shows me more about you than any interview ever could. And I would then make it my business to make you a man of Harvard.”
Malcolm could not believe his eyes, he was taken aback to see how a Harvard alumnus was, in fact, one of the reasons for the deep-rooted drug issues in Inglewood. He aspired to attend Harvard not only to study but also to get out of The Bottoms and the neighborhood. But meeting AJ, he realized that no matter how far you go from ‘The Bottoms,’ ‘The Bottoms’ doesn’t go away from you. Especially if people like AJ, who have reached a position in life where they can choose to walk away, do not walk away but rather continue to play the game and take advantage of people desperate to survive, innocent people will continue to get trapped in drug dealing. Malcolm’s interview with AJ left a huge impact on him and made him question if it was ever possible to get out of this situation.
How Did Malcolm Get Rid of The Drugs?
Regardless of AJ’s threats, Malcolm wasn’t intimidated. He and his friends did what they do best and used their nerd abilities to come up with a plan. Malcolm comes up with the idea to use bitcoin to sell all the drugs online. To execute this plan, they contact their hacker-druggie friend, Wil Sherwood, who helps them set up the shop online through Bitcoin transactions and go untraceable so that none of this could point back to Malcolm.
They get creative and decide to use the science lab to pack drugs, use the computer lab to make online transitions, and take all the supplies from their band room for packaging and shipping. As Malcolm says, “Nobody is going to suspect a thing. We’re just geeks doing what geeks do,” nobody can catch them. To open the sales, Wil suggested starting by selling it to his friends at his house party. And their plan succeeds as the online store immediately blows up.
What Happened That Lead Malcolm to Aim The Gun?
After selling all the drugs, all Malcolm needed to do is transfer bitcoin to cash. Wil tells them that the only guaranteed safe way is through the black market. He sends Malcolm, Jib, and Diggy to a guy name Fidel who works in the garment industry. But before converting the bitcoins to cash, Fidel takes a test. He brings out two alligator bags and asks them to choose the real one. The purpose of the test was to teach the three teenagers a valuable lesson. He explains that the only difference between the two bags is the person selling them. It doesn’t matter if it’s real or not; as long as you believe that it’s real, people will believe that it’s real. But the flip slide to this is that if you don’t believe that it’s real, it doesn’t matter that the brand is sewn into it; people will assume it’s fake. He tells Malcolm, “Only you know the truth,” and to test if Malcolm believes in his truth, Fidel asks Malcolm to hit him as hard as he can on his face on the count of five. Although shaking in fear, worried about the ‘slippery slope’ and consequences, Malcolm goes for it. He realizes what’s at stake and how important it is for him to make get the cash.
Stepping out of the building with a bag of cash, Malcolm emerges as a changed man. He begins to understand how important it is to believe in his truth because, in a neighborhood like The Bottoms, it doesn’t matter who you are, it doesn’t matter if you are innocent or not, anything could happen at any moment, and anyone can get tangled up in big problem. The only thing that would make a difference and maybe even improve the chances of survival is if you believe in your truth and do what’s necessary to step up to the circumstances.
As they all walk across the road, their high school bullies suddenly chase them from behind, beat them to the ground, and snatch the bag from Malcolm. As he walks away with the bag, Malcolm immediately stands up and points a gun at him, telling him to drop the bag or he’d shoot. This moment in the movie marks a big change in Malcolm. It signifies Malcolm’s ability to use a different approach to combat the problem by adapting to the circumstances and stepping up to look out for his best interest. Sadly, this is the reality of the situation. Asking the bully to give him the bag wouldn’t establish the weight of the situation for him and the importance of the bag. Malcolm would lose not only the money but the chance of getting out of The Bottoms, he would lose everything he has worked so hard for. Malcolm had to point the gun and become the bully, to convey that he meant what he said and he wanted his bag. As the bully’s eyes shift, he sees Malcolm as one of them and gives him his bag.
What Does Malcolm do to Get Out of The Bottoms, Inglewood?
Getting into Harvard would, in many ways, mean getting away from a violent environment for Malcolm. He goes to AJ’s office with a bag full of cash that makes up to 10% of the total amount. Malcolm, a high school teenager, could in no way be able to sell such a huge amount of drugs in a week’s time without getting caught by the police or getting dragged deep into the world of drug dealing. Being very well aware of the risks, AJ, the Harvard alumni, put Malcolm’s life at stake to protect his reputation as a drug seller. But Malcolm had already sorted it out. He knew that although bringing the money would maybe guarantee his admission at Harvard, it wouldn’t guarantee that AJ would let him lose and didn’t use this against him in the future.
So the three nerds set up the online store in Austin Jacoby’s name, and Wil used his hacking skills to collect Jacoby’s banking details. They linked the store to his bank account, and technically Jacoby is the owner of the online store that sells drugs. As Malcolm explains this to Jacoby, he lets him know that the rest of the money in bitcoin is in his exchange store. He can transfer it to his bank account and there is a very small chance that the DEA or FBI could trace it back to his account, which could only happen if you are sloppy while setting up the bitcoin exchange account unless done on purpose. Malcolm warns Jacoby that going to the authorities would only set off a chain of events that would destroy him, and that is not what a Harvard man would do. It is in both their interest that he made sure that Malcolm became a man of Harvard.
Though AJ was out of ‘The Bottoms,’ ‘The Bottoms’ wasn’t out of him. On the inside, this Harvard alumni was still a drug dealer from The Bottoms. Just like Fidel said, this is the truth AJ chose to believe, and so people saw him as a drug dealer, not a Harvard man who runs a check cashing and payday lending company.
Does Malcolm Get Into Harvard?
All Malcolm needed to do to get into Harvard was get straight A’s, good SAT scores, recommendations, clear the alumni interview, and write the best personal statement. The only thing left was to write the personal statement, and Malcolm wrote the most authentic and real personal statement. The statement sums up the entire movie.
Malcolm breaks the fourth wall as he directly looks into the camera and narrates his personal statement. He talks starts by introducing two students. One is a straight A student, a geek who plays in a punk band with his friends and loves the ‘90s hip hop, while the other goes to an underfunded school, lives with his single mom, doesn’t know his dad and sells dope. As he asks, “Am I a geek or a menace?” to express how all his life, he has perceived himself in between categories, only now to realize that maybe this isn’t a curse, it’s a blessing in disguise.
He realizes that maybe it’s a good thing not to fit in. Malcolm understands to embrace how his circumstances and environment have shaped him and taught him lessons, for better or worse. Towards the end of the statement, as he asks, “So why do I want to attend Harvard? If I was white, would you even have to ask me that question?” looking straight at the camera, he asks on behalf of all those students who don’t fit in. Pointing out how common it is to judge how far someone can reach or deserves to reach based on their background, not their potential.
At the end of the movie, as Malcolm finds an envelope from Harvard on his bed, he reads it and smiles at the camera. If we follow this clue, then we can positively say that Malcolm did get into Harvard.
Read More: Is Dope Based on a True Story?