Review: White Boy Rick
Rick Wershe Jr. grew up poor in 1980s Detroit. His father sold guns and was constantly harassed by the Feds because of it. Seeing an opportunity and not being afraid to take it, Rick takes a few of his father’s weapons and sells them to a local crime lord. The sale goes well and he earns the moniker White Boy Rick, which makes perfect sense considering he is the only white dude on his block besides his grandparents. He is being accepted in the black community and enjoys everything that comes with it. The Feds see this and ensnare him, threatening his life with jail time unless he buys and sells drugs for them. The feds want to catch major dealers and see this boy (he is only 15 when this happens) as a means to do so. This true story probably should have been a documentary because while all the pieces make for great drama, the film itself is mundane ride that feel like it needed another pass.
Scenes in this film are telegraphed so badly that nothing surprises you when action or drama occur. “Oh. There is the bad guy that’ll mess this up.” you’ll think to yourself and sure enough, two scenes later he does just that. Beyond that problem the pacing of this thing is extremely weird. Sometimes they play very sad moments for laughs which is fine at times, I like contrast, but the snag occurs when you get funny in intense moments then try to get dead serious in the following scene. It feels very uneven and has no flow making for a bumpy experience. They do their best to attach us to Rick, him caring deeply for his drug addicted sister being the main hook, but he is stuck in weird scene after weird scene diminishing any heart or goodwill the character tries to build.
As far as believability is concerned, White Boy Rick gets a whole lot right. Wardrobe looks straight out of the era, while vehicles feel dense and heavy like an 80s ride should be. The soundtrack is grounded by a lot of Hip-Hop with every needle drop taking us through the years perfectly and never sounding forced. Cinema has had its fair share of bad or obvious music choices, like smashing a triangle into the circle shape of a kids toy. Thankfully, White Boy Rick does not suffer this problem and if anything will come out on top it will be this soundtrack.
White Boy Rick has the unfortunate problem of being very unexciting due to its odd pacing. Parts in the second act seem to just be there with no desire to want to be remembered, so when things hit the fan in the third act, you are damn near tuned out completely. Matthew McConaughey does a bang up job taking a first time actor under his wing, doing a ton of heavy lifting turning in the finest performance of the film while letting Richie Merritt shine a bit brighter. In his first role, Merritt does his best and comes off as a non actor which in my opinion helps the believability of the film. His horrible mustache and Detroit accent are perfect for this character, but it is too bad the film he is in seems to wanna just stop there. Other actors that deserve a little praise here are Eddie Marsan and Rory Cochrane. Eddie plays Art Derrick, a dope dealer who sells Rick kilos of cocaine. He plays a latino and it is quite hilarious watching this British mega talent get a little loose. He is barely on screen but he owns every second he’s there. As for Rory Cochrane, I’d like to start a petition for him to be in a great film that does not squander his talents. Much like his performance in Black Mass, here he is again doing solid work, but it all get held back by an iffy film.
White Boy Rick is not a bad film, it just does nothing to make itself stand out in the world of Drug Cinema. Poor-souls-turn-to-selling-drugs-to-escape-the-hurt has been done way better and this very familiar song sings no new notes. White Boy Rick has quite a few problems preventing it from being a top tier hood story, but it does have a few nuggets worth mining in all of the madness so it is not all pointless. The runtime does feel much longer than 110 minutes and that is never a good feeling. Rental or a matinee is the route you should go but as always, judge for yourself!