Movie Review: White Boy Rick

White Boy Rick movie review, Detroit
Last night, I attended a red carpet screening of White Boy Rick, at Emagine Novi. I didn't know much about the actual case before seeing the film, except that Rick Wershe Jr. grew up on the streets of Detroit in the 1980s and eventually became a drug dealer; because of the Detroit connection, I found the movie to be very interesting.

Richard Wershe Jr. (newcomer Richie Merritt, starring in his very first film) lives with his dad, Rick Sr. (Matthew McConaughey) and his sister, Dawn (Bel Powley), in a small house in Detroit. His father sells guns—not always legally—and Rick Jr. wants a better life for his family. One day, he's approached by two FBI agents (Jennifer Jason Leigh and Rory Cochrane, respectively) who want something from him: they want him to buy cocaine so that they can get some information about the local drug dealers. Rick agrees, and later, once he's done cooperating with them, he starts buying and selling cocaine on his own, which eventually leads to his arrest.

Richie Merritt is great in this film, especially considering he hasn't been in any other movies. Matthew McConaughey, per usual, is a chameleon who disappears into all of his roles, and is almost unrecognizable as Richard Wershe Sr. Underused here is Jennifer Jason Leigh, as one of the FBI agents that Rick initially cooperates with, as well as Bruce Dern and Detroit native Piper Laurie as Rick's grandparents.

The movie was mostly filmed in Cleveland, but the Detroit references are abundant: at one point, there's a scene where groceries—in Farmer Jack brown paper bags!—are left outside a home. I will say that director Yann Demange got one thing wrong, however—in another scene, Rick offers a friend some "soda," and he would have offered him "pop," had the Michigan lingo been accurate.

Yes, see this movie, but it could have been better, in my opinion. It slows down drastically near the end of the film—I was checking my watch more than a few times—and seems a little convoluted in scenes. However, for those mostly unfamiliar with "White Boy Rick's" story, it serves as a primer to it, and will make you interested enough to look up the story on your own after the credits roll.

White Boy Rick is currently playing in theaters, and is rated R with a runtime of 110 minutes. 3.5 stars out of 5.

{And for those who want to read more about Rick's real story: I recommend this link and this one.}


Yann Demange, White Boy Rick director
Director Yann Demange at the Novi red carpet premiere

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