White Boy Rick is a 2018 American biographical crime drama movie directed by Yann Demanange, best known for films such as ‘Dead Set’ and ‘Top Boy’. Based on a true story, the film centers on the highs and lows of a juvenile in Rick Wershe Jnr. (Richie Merritt), who became a famous Detroit drug lord at a very young age as well as his history with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (F.B.I).
Richie Merritt’s interpretation of the young 80’s lad is one I didn’t have a problem with; I could tell that the soul of his character on here was solely dictated by factors beyond his control i.e directing and writing but all in all, he did good. I liked how serious he looked throughout the movie’s runtime because it gelled well with how serious his illegal undertakings were. When you are an integral part of a drug business in the city of Detroit then you can’t afford to be as jovial as a kid on the sight of cake, you just can’t. This tone in his character is established early on in the movie and thus, as a viewer, it prepares you for what’s to come with him. Rick’s journey throughout the film wasn’t as satisfactory as it should have been as I will highlight later on in this synopsis but he is not to blame for that; other factors are indeed in play.
Matthew McConaughey is an actor who needs no introduction; he plays most of his roles effortlessly and thus Rick Wershe Snr. wasn’t going to be an exception. His performance here was very reminiscent of his role in ‘Interstellar’ as far as his emotional drive is concerned. Rick isn’t a saint though, he is involved in a business of selling ammunition to drug cartels in Detroit and to add more salt to injury, he has incorporated his son into the business. To some extent, some might watch this movie and say he is pretty much as much of a villian as the real ones are considering the latter statement but some might argue otherwise. This is because there are certain things he does on here that properly show how much he values family and the lengths he is willing to go to protect it.
The Plot, Merits and Demerits.
In all honestly, I knew nothing about the apparent legend of White Boy Rick before I set out to watch and review this movie mainly because the in part of the world where I dwell, he isn’t or rather hasn’t been a hot fuss for as long as I can remember. That said, having done some background research of this legendary story as well as having seen this 2018 movie, I’m astonished I hadn’t known about this earlier. I’m always fascinated by drug-lords and their various ups and downs in the business and I am particularly excited when their stories are portrayed on film but not always; this year’s ‘Gotti’, for starters, was thoroughly disappointing.
As a director taking charge of a biographical film, you always want the story in question to be as accurate a depiction of what happened on the ground as possible and substantially, Yann Demanange doesn’t do well in that department. From the information I could find online, there was so much to the life of White Boy Rick that should have been shown in this film but somehow wasn’t and that was a big letdown. Before I focus on the flaws, let me first shed light on what this flick actually did right.
*The production design is as pristine as it should be; White Boy Rick is a 1980’s period piece and the setting couldn’t have be more accurate as it was portrayed. Whether it was the cars, the night life, the clothing, the bushy hair or even specifically the 1980’s Detroit accent, I was sold on this aspect of the motion-picture all the way and I needed that. Yes, I might not have been born in the 80’s moreso in the United States but I’ve watched enough movies that came out at around that time to now I am right. *There are certain themes in this film that are quite inviting; for instance we have betrayal and vengeance which were themes that really caught my eye given how well they bring out certain qualities of the characters caught up in certain situations.
*The movie does well in addressing the conflict in Detroit; the drug world and how it worked, how dependent the dealers were on it as well as how much the said dealers wouldn’t want their business compromised. Additionally, this flick also succeeded in shedding light on self-conflict and how it affects the lead characters from a psychological standpoint especially from the perspective of Rick Wershe Jnr. There’s a part of him wants to lead a good life and get an education but at the same time, there is a part of him that just can’t let go of the allure that the drug business brings with it.
And then there were the faults. First off, *the rated-r dialogue can get a bit too out of hand to a point where I was substantially uncomfortable with it. * The pacing was too quick as well; this was contributed by occasional time jumps that left too much to the imagination, at least for me, of what had been happening with the characters as well as the story in between the time that is jumped from to the time that is jumped to. *Aside from the F.B.I agents who play an integral part in the story, there were quite a number of needless characters that added no value to the narrative and therefore were not in the very least investable.
*Lastly, the biggest imperfection this movie has is that it wasn’t wholesome and conclusive. As I mentioned earlier in my review, the filmic journey of Richie Merrit’s character was really disappointing because the overall story left so many sides to his story. I wouldn’t want to go too deep into this point because it lingers on spoiler territory but you ought to know that it was a significant flaw, in my perspective. Picture this, White Boy Rick is the Titanic and this mentioned blemish is the iceberg; the only different is that this time, the Titanic has just enough flood compartments to make it float, only just. The extra flood compartment being the merits that I highlighted.
When all is said and done, it should be noted that there are indeed two sides to White Boy Rick as a motion picture. I’m a bit confused as to how I should grade this film because in as much as the story of Richard Wershe Jnr. was considerably inconclusive and not all encompassing, there are elements to the movie that were likeable and riveting. I sure hope the below grade is befitting.