Moderator / Reviewer
- Apr 4, 2017
My AV System
- Preamp, Processor or Receiver
- Yamaha TRS-7850 Atmos Receiver
- Other Amp
- Peavy IPR 3000 for subs
- Universal / Blu-ray / CD Player
- Sony ubx800 4K UHD Player
- Front Speakers
- Cheap Thrills Mains
- Center Channel Speaker
- Cheap Thrills Center
- Surround Speakers
- Volt 10 Surrounds
- Surround Back Speakers
- Volt 10 Reach Surrounds
- Rear Height Speakers
- Volt 6 Overheads
- 2x Marty subs (full size with SI 18's)
- Video Display Device
- JVC RS-46 Projector
- Draper Cineperm M1300 119 inch Static Screen
White Boy Rick
True crime stories are often more fascinating than real life. None more so than the story of Ricky Wershe Jr., a drug dealing king pin who was convicted in 1988 with a life sentence, all while barely being 17 years old. Directed by fairly newcomer Yann Demange, White Boy Rick chronicles the years leading up to Ricky’s rise to the top of the Detroit cocaine distribution business, and the blistering downfall that he receives when the feds stop using him as their way INTO the drug business, and throw him under the bus when his usefulness is gone. Part crime story, part depressing drama, White Boy Rick hovers on the verge of being really good, with a fantastic setup, before Yann can’t seem to figure out how to nail the landing. It’s a good effort, but one that’s slightly flawed in execution and tone.
Rick Wershe Jr. (Ricky, played by Richie Merritt) is your average 14 year old. Hangs out with is ad at gun shows, learns how to rip off dealers, and then sells the guns to drug dealers at a massive markup (thanks to his dad being a sleazy FFL who manufactures silencers for the cheap military surplus AK variety guns that the U.S. was saturated with after the end of the cold war). Sadly Rick Wershe Sr. (Matthew McConaughey) is a bit of a loser. His little side business of selling guns and illegal accessories to scumbugs has only netted them pain and suffering. They get a few bucks, but Ricky’s sister Dawn (Bel Powley) is a raging drug addict who hates her father, and Ricky himself is trying to make a few bucks by following in his father’s footsteps. When two FBI agents (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh and Rory Cochrane) approach him to sell drugs for them in exchange for them tracking WHERE the drugs go, Ricky jumps at the chance.
In reality Ricky has no choice. His dad is going to be busted for illegal arms dealing and Dawn is a druggy whom they could lock away without barely a moment’s notice. His only choice is to get deep into the game and start making some money in hopes of getting out. However, Ricky doesn’t want out when he’s got a taste of the game. Soon he’s making $10,000 in just a few weeks and he’s got bigger aspirations. However, a rogue rival shooting leaves Ricky with a gunshot wound to the chest and the final desire to get OUT of this nightmare. That is until he’s sick and tired of living a poor, sleazy, life like his father and decides to get back in without the FBI’s. A move which will net him the distinction of being the longest serving non violent felon in all of Michigan history.
I liked the first half of White Boy Rick, as it played out nothing like I expected. Instead of focusing on the drug dealing and the powerful 17 year old who took Detroit by storm in the 80s, it focuses more along HOW Ricky got to be who he was. It starts out early and spends most of the time showing Rick on the upswing. However, the 2nd half of the film sputters out a bit as director Yann Demange can’t seem to figure out where he wants to go with the film. Instead of delving deeper into the character, Yann gives us the basic case point of the real Rick’s takedown and betrayal by the Feds, giving us a bleak third act that feels so hopeless and so dark that you almost wonder what the purpose of the film is. It serves decently as a biopic, but as a narrative the last act just sputters and fizzles away what could have been a great ending.
Acting is a mixed bag. Ricky is played by Richie Merritt, a literal first time actor who shows how green around the ears he is (acting wise). I guess it makes it more realistic in some ways, but the kid feels a bit too dopey to be playing Ricky Wershe junior. Matthew McConaughey still proves he’s one of the most versatile actors out there, giving off a great performance as Ricky’s greasy and slimy father. Bel Powley turns in a great performance as well, portraying young Dawn as a truly tortured character who is living life on the ragged edge. Jennifer Jason Leigh basically coasts through the film as the FBI lead, giving a solid role, but not really being taxed with her abilities by any stretch of the imagination.
Rated R for language throughout, drug content, violence, some sexual references, and brief nudity
- “The Unknown True Story of Rick Wershe Jr.”
- “The Three Tribes of Detroit: The Cast”
- “The Making of White Boy Rick”
- Feature Trivia Track
White Boy Rick is a solid true crime biopic about one of the more unique drug kingpins of the 1980s. It’s sleazy, greasy, grimy, and bleakly entertaining all at once. The first half has the most potential of the two parts, but it’s still a solid biopic at heart. McConaughey is a powerhouse in anything he does these days, and his performance here is truly standout. The movie itself is a bit weaker than I would have liked, but I really did enjoy the gritty tale (except for the ending which was almost too bleak for it’s own good), and the DVD’s technical specs are more than reasonable considering the unique visual style Yann Demange was going for (by the way, there is a Blu-ray of this available as well, although we weren’t provided that for the review today). All in all, recommended as a solid rental or at least a good watch.
Starring: Richie Merritt, Matthew McConaughey, Eddie Marsan, Bel Powley, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rory Cochrane, Brian Tyree Henry, Jonathan Majors, RJ Cyler
Directed by: Yann Demange
Written by: Andy Weiss, Logan Miller, Noah Miller
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 MPEG2
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, French, Thai
Runtime: 111 Minutes
DVD Release Date: December 25th 2018
Recommendation: Solid Watch