Film Review: WHITE BOY RICK (directed by Yann Demange)

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by Joan Alperin on September 12, 2018

in Film


White Boy Rick — written by Andy Weiss along with Logan and Noah Miller — is based on true events. It’s set in the 1980s in Detroit when the city, rife with corruption on every level, is at the height of a crack epidemic. Crime and violence ruled the day and no one was exempt.

In a powerhouse performance, Matthew McConaughey plays Richard Wershe Sr., a blue collar father who makes his living selling guns — bought from unscrupulous dealers — at gun shows. He’s your basic street hustler but his dream is to open a video store so he can give his son, Rick Wershe, Jr. (the excellent newcomer Richie Merritt) and his drug addicted daughter Dawn (Bel Powley) a “normal” home.

Through a series of events that involve Rick protecting his father from going to jail for selling illegal weapons, Rick Jr. — a 14 year old high school dropout at the time — reluctantly enters into an agreement with two FBI agents (Jennifer Jason Leigh and Rory Cochrane) and a police detective (Brian Tyree Henry)  to become a confidential informant. Both his father and grandparents (Bruce Dern and Piper Laurie), who live across the street from the Wershes, are completely clueless to Rick Jr.’s agreement with the Feds.

Rick lives in a predominantly African-American neighborhood so it’s easy for him to meet and befriend Rudell “Boo” Curry (RJ Cyler) who is the younger brother of Johnny “Lil Man” Curry (Jonathan Majors), the head of the Curry crew who dominated East Detroit’s drug scene. Johnny is married to Cathy Volsan-Curry (Taylour Paige) who is the niece of Detroit Mayor Coleman Young. This political connection helps the Currys’ business to thrive.

It doesn’t take long for Rick Jr. to get seduced by the Curry lifestyle which includes after-hours nightlife, mink coats, gold jewelry, fancy cars and violence, which he seems to easily overlook. It is also during this time that he becomes a father after a one-night stand.

Rick’s new found friends cause his relationship with his father to deteriorate as Curry becomes a father figure to Rick, who rises rapidly in the area’s drug scene while earning the nickname “White Boy Rick.”

Directed by Yann Demange, the film gets more and more complicated leading to certain plot points getting lost in the mix. It also doesn’t delve deep enough into the corruption in Detroit during the 80s; nor does it cover Reagan’s War on Drugs that led to many unlawful and unfair convictions for a victimless crime. What happens to Rick Jr. is horrible and I can’t imagine anyone leaving the theater without feeling some outrage at the corruption that led to Rick’s arrest and conviction. You will also leave feeling you watched a series of missed opportunities.

photos courtesy of Sony

White Boy Rick
Sony Pictures
opens in wide release Friday, September 14, 2018
United States | 116 minutes | rated R

{ 1 comment }

David Majkowski September 13, 2018 at 10:55 am

Media coverage of the story of Richard Wershe, Jr., better known to the public as “White Boy Rick” thanks to relentless media use of that nickname, has been deplorable, shoddy and often wrong for close to 30 years. The inexcusable erroneous reporting calling him a “drug lord” and “kingpin” is one of the reasons Wershe has been in prison since age 18. Detroit’s news media owes it to this man to finally tell his story correctly. If you are interested in facts and accurate information regarding Rick Wershe’s story please visit our page at Free Richard Wershe Jr on Facebook.

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