White Boy Rick (2018)
Director – Yann Demange
Writer – Andy Weiss, Logan Miller, Noah Miller
Starring – Matthew McConaughey, Richie Merritt, Bel Powley
Rating – R
Genre – Crime, Drama
Metascore – 61/100
Rotten Tomatoes – 63%
White Boy Rick is uninspired Oscar bait. I doubt the academy will take any bites.
The film begins with Richard Wershe Sr. and Rick Wershe Jr. showing their dealing abilities at a gun show. On their ride back home, they speak about being “lions” in the midst of “lambs.” Of all the low-life in Detroit, they, more than anyone else, are going to make it. But what’s the ticket out?
When the film finally began to focus primarily on Rick Jr., various tickets out of Detroit became abundantly clear: selling guns, dealing drugs, going back to high school, or becoming an informant for the FBI. This is where the film was most messy. His relationship with the FBI waxes and wanes in clarity; their presence disappears too often and for too long. His relationships with those in the drug realm are unclear as well. It became difficult to follow what exactly Rick Jr. was doing during several stretches of the film.
Development and pacing also floundered in White Boy Rick. I didn’t see any meaningful character development. Rick Jr. doesn’t even get enough screen time to allow us to connect with him, see his desires, and observe his growth. It seemed like the film wanted to flesh out Rick Sr. more than its primary character. And that’s the thing: this film had too many characters. What could have been a great focusing on Rick Jr. zoomed out and showed too many players. As a result, piss-poor pacing developed. In-your-face attempts begging for a strong emotional response occurred often and early. Also, it seemed like the film wrapped up about three-quarters in. That the film continued was jarring.
However, I noticed a small handful of positive elements in this film. One example is the snowy, cold atmosphere of the many winters during the film that reinforces the thematic elements with precision. In the midst of some incoherence, the screenplay is self-contained. It wasn’t with the mastery of, say, Edgar Wright, but the screenplay shined when adapting prior dialogue to fit into a later scene. Another example is while the film focused too much on secondary characters, everyone in the film managed to capture and display the hardness of Detroit in the 1980s. Granted, when all is considered, what potential this film had it threw away to keep the film under 2 hours.
White Boy Rick might bring some tears to your eyes. It’s a stark look at the tragedy of life. A pessimistic-realism lays heavily on this film. At the same time, there’s no subtle hope, no “despite-all-this,” no “but, maybe”. It’s a dismal “based on a true story” retelling of a terribly dreadful story — one that most certainly could have been better told.
Author: Matt Welborn