In the mid-1980s, a young man named Richard Wershe Jr. was approached by the FBI and the Detroit Police Department to aid in the crackdown on narcotics in the Motor City by acting as an informant. He was ultimately arrested for drug trafficking and sentenced to life in prison shortly before he turned 18. His story is chronicled in the new motion picture White Boy Rick.
Newcomer Richie Merritt stars in director Yann Demange’s film, methodically exploring and detailing the many facets of Rick Jr.’s story ranging from his family life in Detroit, with his father, played by Matthew McConaughey, his sister Dawn, his grandparents, friends and how he was roped into becoming the youngest FBI informant in American history-turned-drug kingpin.
White Boy Rick tries so hard to be a big time flick, but ultimately falls utterly short of any and all expectations to be nothing more than a throwaway film that may have been better off for television. Watching this film, I felt so bad for the talents that took part in this bland picture, especially McConaughey and Merritt who are practically wasted in this boring hustler feature.
Demange’s approach to this story is straightforward and he does what he can to give this movie some depth and detail to say the least but there is just no gravitas, no energy and it’s muddled in its execution. The writing, courtesy of Andy Weiss and Logan and Noah Miller, takes the elements of Rick’s history and doesn’t go anywhere exciting with it. The film plays out like a forgettable college lecture.
The acting in this movie, I reiterate, is wasteful. Richie Merritt does a solid job, Matthew McConaughey, the main selling point of this film, tries to salvage this film but can’t, the only other standout performer is possibly Bel Powley, who plays Dawn Wershe, but from Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bryan Tyree Henry, Rory Cochrane, R.J. Cyler, Jonathan Majors, Bruce Dern, Piper Laurie, Eddie Marsan, Taylour Paige, Raekwon Haynes, Kyanna Simone Simpson, this cast just practically phones it in.
With how the plot slowly and achingly drudges along, the performances essentially fade to the boring background with some signs of life appearing every now and then but definitively, it’s so bad that an actor of Matthew McConaughey’s caliber can’t save it; that alone should give you an idea of how easily you will forget about this picture.
Tat Radcliffe’s cinematography doesn’t do any favors to give this film any aesthetic value, Chris Wyatt’s editing is pedestrian, Max Richter’s music doesn’t leave a lasting impression, Stefania Cella’s production design is satisfactory, Audra Avery and Bryan Felty’s art direction is fine, Jon J. Bush’s set decoration is average and Amy Westcott’s costumes design is passable. The overall technical quality of White Boy Rick is sedative to be succinct.
You’re not missing anything when it comes to White Boy Rick. To be honest, if this movie didn’t have Matthew McConaughey, I bet it would a straight-to-digital or television movie or miniseries that may have gained a possible following but ultimately would be just as forgettable.