Title – White Boy Rick (2018)
Director – Yann Demange (’71)
Cast – Richie Merritt, Matthew McConaughey, Bel Powley, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Brian Tyree Henry, Bruce Dern, Eddie Marsan
Plot – The true story of Detroit teenager Rock Wershe Jr. (Merritt) who rose to fame in the mid-80’s after he become a key crime figure at the age of 16 years old.
“When I first saw you I knew you were going to be bigger than me”
Review by Eddie on 14/05/2019
On paper everything seemed to suggest that White Boy Rick had it made.
An up and coming director in the form of Yann Demange, who was headhunted by Hollywood after his independent thriller ’71 got tongues wagging in 2014, a true life story that was ripe for the picking and one of Hollywood’s most beloved leading men Matthew McConaughey sporting the year’s best on screen mullet, but sadly for all, White Boy Rick came and went from cinemas with little fanfare after middling box-office and equally as so-so reviews.
Most seem to agree that there’s nothing terribly wrong with Demange’s film, with the consensus instead being that it’s just perfectly middle of the line, watchable without ever elevating itself to something more, that special something that makes some true life crime film’s more than the sum of their parts.
It’s hard to argue with this overriding feeling that White Boy Rick is disappointing, in the fact it feels like it could’ve been so much more, the elements are seemingly there but never molded together at the same time but it doesn’t stop Demange’s film from being an entertaining examination of the American dream against the backdrop of a drug-addled Detroit in the mid to late 80’s.
Acting alongside newcomer Richie Merritt (who was literally plucked from the public for this role, without ever previously acting) who plays the titular Rick Wershe Jr., who rose to infamy in the USA after he was used as an informant by the FBI at the age of 15 years old to then move into a life of drug slinging, Demange and McConaughey do solid work in bringing this tale to life as we follow this bizarre journey from depressing start to depressing end.
For an actor with little to no experience, Merritt does a amicable job of bringing Rick to life, a stoic like character that seemed to be able to oppress his deeper emotions while McConaughey is a blast as the trailer park like Richard Wershe Sr., the actor bringing both some hilarity and emotion to the tale that ends up acting as a performance that seems cut from a better and more well-rounded film.
The problem for Demange’s film is that it flows from situation to situation without much care or thought, there’s a lot to cover here in a runtime that sits below two hours and it never feels as though the moments in Rick’s life that are key touchpoints get as much airtime as they deserve, meaning our emotional connection as an audience member can only go so far.
This makes White Boy Rick a cold affair that once every now and then shows glimmers of the heart that lay beneath the surface (Rick meeting his new baby or Wershe Sr. coming to the realization his failed as a father are some such moments) but these glimmers are nothing more, quickly covered up by a continual procession of moments that come and go without much fanfare.
Final Say –
Always watchable and a nice showcase for newcomer Merritt and the scene-stealing Matthew McConaughey, White Boy Rick is a solid if unremarkable telling of a crazy true life tale that will be hard to remember in the coming year’s.
3 ½ pancakes out of 5