STARS: Matthew McConaughey, Richie Merritt, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bel Powle
DIRECTOR: Yann Demange
If you like drugs and drug dealers (in the movies, I mean)...junkies, crooked cops and dedicated cops, and a little shoot-'em-up--all played out against the bleak backdrop of the seedier side of Detroit, amidst the height of the hysterical drug war in the mid eighties...then White Boy Rick is for you!
Based upon the true--and truly sad and appalling story of Rick Wershe Jr. (Richie Merritt), the film comes about its title due to the fact that Wershe was the youngest undercover FBI informant ever--at age 14--who hung around exclusively with black folk (at least in the movie) because all the dope dealers in this film are black (does that make this a racist film?), and thus he came to be affectionately known as "White Boy Rick."
Rick's dad, Rick Wershe Sr. (Matthew McConaughey), is an unscrupulous firearms dealer who sells AK-47s to the drug dealers through his son. The FBI gets wind of Junior's extra-curricular activities and recruits him to become a dope dealer himself in order to infiltrate the big boys of the trade, rat on them and take them down.
As good as McConaughey and newcomer Merritt are in this film, the Kickass Performance Award goes to two supporting cast members: Jennifer Jason Leigh as a totally jaded and weary FBI agent...and young British thespian Bel Powle, who plays Rick's junkie sister. Powle is perfectly cast in this role; her eyes are so naturally haunted it's scary (and Halloween is coming up!)
Also notable is Bruce Dern as Grandpa, but only because he's been reduced to bit parts as a curmudgeonly old bastard--popping up higgledy-pigleddy, just enough to make you say: hey, that's Bruce Dern...what the hell's HE doing in this film???
Like most movies based on true events, White Boy Rick proceeds at breakneck speed, leaving you at a loss to keep up at times, with a hip-hop soundtrack that could have been better if any of the songs were recognizable. But on the strength of the gritty performances, I'm giving it a decent rating. You may or may not agree, depending upon how chemically altered your brain is at the time.
I'm thinking maybe Tim's recent hiatus from movie reviewing has made him go soft. (oh oh) Sad as the story of White Boy Rick is, I'm getting fed up with the idea that just because something is based on a 'true story' makes it cinematic gold. Wrong!
If you're looking to spend one hour and fifty-one minutes being depressed, feeling a sense of unrelenting hopelessness, then this is the movie for you. I have to hand it to cinematographer Tat Radcliffe whose visions of Detroit in the 1980s are enough to make any young man sell drugs just to get out of there!
I suppose, if I had to pin-point the problem with White Boy Rick (a grabber title, by the way), it would be that it's riddled with nothing but losers, including the FBI agents. I'm not suggesting that some Hollywood knight come charging in on a white horse to rescue everybody. But a film with nothing but bad guys in it risks being too much of a downer. At least it was for me.
Maybe my negative reaction had more to do with the toothache I was experiencing at the time. I think not...
Grade: C -