White Boy Rick Review
Sony Pictures Releasing
What’s It About?
The true story of a young kid in downtrodden Detroit in the mid 80s, who gets involved in drugs and arms dealing to the criminal underworld, before turning informant for the FBI.
Who’s In It?
Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyer’s Club, True Detective, & more recently Gold)
Richie Merritt (debut)
Other notables include:
Bel Powley (The Diary Of A Teenage Girl, A Royal Night Out, & more recently Mary Shelley)
Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight, Anomalisa, & more recently Annihilation)
Director: Yann Demange (’71)
After a sensational debut with Belfast set drama ’71, director Yann Demange has moved forward a whole decade, as well as a different continent, to focus on a downtrodden Detroit in the mid-80s. As with ‘71, Demange totally captures the look and feel of the place, portraying the rundown nature of the city, complete with rampant drugs, rats, poverty, desperation and so much more. The film is actually based on a true story, focusing on Richard Wershe Jr, a teenage lad, abandoned by his mother, with a drug addict for a sister, eking out an existence with his wheeler-dealer dad, trading weapons for cash.
When White Boy Rick sells to a gang, he soon becomes involved in the criminal underworld dealing in drugs and weapons, bringing him to the attention of the FBI. They in turn threaten him with incarcerating his loser dad, so he ends up informing for them, leading him into some very dark places.
There is plenty more to tell with lots of ups, and even more downs, but White Boy Rick ultimately looks at the economic degradation and total desperation facing people in Detroit at that time, and how, for Richard Wershe Jr and his family, the only way out (at least as far as they could see) was through breaking the law.
There are some wonderful performances, with strong turns from Bel Powley as the drug addicted daughter, Bruce Dern and Jennifer Jason Leigh, while Matthew McConaughey truly excels as the slippery father – the only disappointment being he is not in it enough.
The main bulk of the film, however, is led by newcomer Richie Merritt, who delivers a solid performance, as a possibly likeable but certainly practical individual trying to get by and improve the lot of his family in the only way he sees how.
Director Demange evokes the time and place wonderfully, recounting this true story chronologically and exploring the criminal justice system and its different relationship with guns and drugs, but in truth White Boy Rick ultimately feels at times a little long and overly sentimental.
In A Nutshell:
Although not the follow-up to the scintillating ’71 we may have hoped for, it is a well-told, fascinating tale with a sublime performance from McConaughey.
The atmosphere and look of the film
A little long