FILM REVIEW: WHITE BOY RICK
BY KYLE ARANGO
The drug business seems like something that always ends bad no matter what. I’ve never been a drug dealer, nor have I ever wanted to, but I do know that it is almost always a terrible decision. White Boy Rick shows us the drug trade taking place in Detroit in the 80’s, a side I’ve never seen before. Is White Boy Rick the movie that takes the drug story and puts a new spin on it? Not at all, but that is not to say that this is a bad movie. White Boy Rick does its best to tell this true story but in the end, can’t do much else.
White Boy Rick is an odd title for a film in the first place but is one that captures your attention. We get the story of this 15-year-old named Rick who is living with his Dad in Detroit. They are a family that does alright, but his mother left, and his sister is a junkie, so they aren’t very stable. Rick’s curiosity and surroundings get to him and he throws himself into the middle of a gang’s drug operation as a member of their crew while also becoming an informant for the FBI. Rick is the youngest informant for the FBI ever which can lead to some trouble. This is a fascinating real-life story that I’m sure is great to hear about. Unfortunately, the film is not sure who to tell it in the best way possible. While all the twists and turns were interesting, and the characters were compelling, the movie just felt bland overall. There was nothing particularly remarkable or memorable about the plot besides where it starts and where it ends. The journey to from beginning to end is such a rollercoaster of some big events but they are few and far between. Had the filmmaker Yann Demange just told this story in a more interesting way, it could’ve been great. Think back to I, Tonya last year. The story is based off of one big event in Tonya Harding’s life, but everything else is bland story wise. They took that material and made it fun with fourth wall breaks and a heightened pace. Had White Boy Rick done that, it could’ve had the same result.
Now just because the story is told in a mediocre way does not mean the entire movie is bad. The performances from the major players of the cast are fantastic. Matthew McConaughey stars as Rick’s dad in this film and he shows why he is one of the most consistent actors working today. His charisma is infectious, and he is just a father who will do anything to provide for his family. The actor people will be talking out of this is Richie Merritt as Rick. He is our main protagonist the entire film is rested on his shoulders. This is an actor who has never starred in anything before and he absolutely nails it. For a kid like him to have never been in a feature film before and he steps into the spotlight with this? That is something special. His chemistry with McConaughey is electric and you truly feel as if they are father and son. His character is extremely unlikeable being an at-risk teen who completely takes the risk. He works as a character because Merritt sells the performance so well. Other supporting actor like Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bel Powley, Brian Tyree Henry are solid in their roles and only help elevate this material to the best of their abilities. In the end though, this is Merritt and McConaughey’s movie and they take it in full stride.
White Boy Rick is a film that had high promise but unfortunately couldn’t quite get there in the end. The story is interesting but told in such a bland fashion that you feel the length midway through. McConaughey and Merritt are solid and do their best with what they are given. This is in no way a bad film, but it won’t be talked about come awards season this year and ultimately may end up being forgotten. Also, don’t read the description on IMDB if you don’t want spoilers. Don’t do drugs kids.