Detroit’s a dangerous place. Who knew?
It’s Detroit in the mid-80’s and Richie Wershe Jr. (Richie Merritt) is, like a lot of other people, just trying to get by. He sells guns on the side for his dad (Matthew McConaughey) and tries to keep his sister (Bel Powley) out of trouble, especially with drugs. But it’s not enough to fully live out the dream that he has himself imagined having. So, he gets in the drug game and meets all sorts of colorful characters, some good and some bad. But mostly, Ricky earns himself a posse, a nickname, and a grand amount of respect, all to his own father’s dismay. However, with all of that fame and fortune, also comes a lot more attention from the law, which is exactly what happens when Richie gets picked-up and is given the choice: He and his father can go to jail for illegally selling-off guns and silencers, or he can be an informant for the FBI, to help them win this so-called “war on drugs”. Obviously, Ricky goes with the later decision and it affects not only his whole life, but those lives around him, too.
White Boy Rick likes to think that it’s more like Goodfellas, when in reality, it’s much more like Blow. It’s always entertaining, well-acted, and interesting, but it never really gets off the ground and that’s actually okay; director Yann Demange sets up this world of depression and dread, where bad things happen to almost everybody, without so much as a reason to why, except that they just do. It’s the kind of crime-thriller that plays more like a drama than a comedy and because of that, it’s an interesting watch, making us think more about the drugs, the guns, the violence, the girls, the cars, the diamonds, the gold chains, and all that fancy stuff, rather than actually enjoying it all.
Which is probably why it’s a bit of a mixed-effort, never feeling like it’s found its feet, or even knows how to.
But for White Boy Rick, the best compliment I can give it is that it features a great cast who know exactly what they’re doing with this material, even when it seems like the material doesn’t know what to do with them. In his debut role, Richie Merritt fits perfectly as White Boy Rick because, like the titular-character, he too is a teenager. There’s this vague sense of youth, angst and confusion that shines through in everyone of his scenes, which may not make his role the showiest, but it helps keep him as the glue that holds everything together.
Cause even when he’s living in the moment of all the fancy parties and clubs, there’s still a sadness to everything that he’s doing, and it mostly comes through in the scenes with his father, played by McConaughey. McConaughey, as per usual, is enjoying playing this sad-sack, low-rent, two-bit hustler who wouldn’t ever pass-up a good hustle, but also knows that his best and brightest days are behind him. He’s much more depressing than the usual characters McConaughey plays, but that still doesn’t keep him from being effortlessly charming and lovable, all while sporting an awful mustache and equally as awful mullet, chalked-up with gel and other supplements I don’t even want to think of.
But their scenes together constantly remind White Boy Rick, at the center, what it’s really about, and that’s family.
It’s cheesy, but when the movie focuses on it, it works. It isn’t until rather late in the movie it reveals to us that it’s a much darker, meaner, and more conspiratorial movie than it led on, but still, it remains compelling. It’s a portrait of a sad life, taking place in an awfully sad city, where people do bad things to one another and no one’s held accountable, even those who are supposed to be.
So yeah. It’s a fun and enjoyable experience to be had by all.
Consensus: With solid performances, an enjoyable pace, and compelling portrait of family-life in Detroit, White Boy Rick remains interesting, even if it never fully figures out it’s story.
7 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Sony Pictures