“White Boy Rick” is a crime-drama biopic directed by Yann Demange featuring Matthew McConaughey and breakout star Richie Merritt. It follows the real story of the world’s youngest kingpin and informant, Rick Wershe Jr. and his gun-toting father Richard Wershe Sr.
The movie takes place in ’80s Detroit where drugs, guns, and poverty are prevalent on the streets.
To survive the harsh conditions of Detroit, Richard sells and manufactures firearms and firearm accessories to make ends meet. This gets Richard in trouble with the police after one of his firearms is traced to a recent murder.
The police make a deal with Ricky to ensure his family’s protection from any charges. All he has to do is sell $4,000 worth of crack cocaine and provide information on dealers.
The most memorable part of the film has to be Ricky and Richard. They have an odd father/son dynamic, almost more like best friends, which keeps the movie consistently entertaining.
It’s hard to believe that this is Merritt’s first film because he and McConaughey give outstanding performances. The emotions feel real, the interactions are natural, and at no point does it seem like the relationship between the two is disingenuous.
While the film succeeds in the depiction of Ricky’s and Richard’s characters and performances, it lacks, to be frank, everything else.
The only other characters in the movie are either mentioned and not shown very much, or so shallow that they might as well not exist.
Another problem the movie has is it simply takes on too many subplots. While everything that happened in the movie really did happen, a director should include things that progress the story, not add to it. Subplots can be a tool to enhance a story, but in this film they distract.
This movie jumps between the years of 1984 and 1987, and because of this we come back to characters with seemingly different motives.
On top of that, the passage of time between the cuts are really what should be shown. The selling of the drugs and the weapons isn’t shown very much. This makes Ricky seem to be a lot better of a person than he actually is, and the movie doesn’t feel aware of that.
This isn’t to say that the audience can’t feel sympathetic, but it seems like an attempt to make you feel something rather than a unbiased biopic.
There are moments in the movie where not much happens. They show scenes to signify something that has already been signified in the movie, and this leads to it being boring at times.
It feels like wasted potential.
You have two great actors – and maybe even the others you didn’t bother to use – an amazing true story, great setting, and it can easily relate to themes that are prevalent even today. Instead, it feels like a cocoon, or a puzzle with missing pieces.
“White Boy Rick” ain’t so slick.