WHITE BOY RICK – A Review By Gadi Elkon

WHITE BOY RICK is a tarnished American Dream, an improbable tale of fathers and sons, friends and family, a shifting landscape of loyalty and betrayal, where everything has a cost, including love and the ultimate price may be survival. WHITE BOY RICK chronicles three critical years in the life of Rick Wershe Jr. as he rises from baby-faced teen to infamous drug dealer before ultimately becoming a pawn to some of Detroit’s most powerful and corrupt politicians.

 

Here is my full review for the film.

There was nothing cutesy about it,” McConaughey explains. “It wasn’t trying to be a pop icon Scarface story about the rise of a 15-year-old kid in South East Detroit, although it has those fun elements of his rise. And it wasn’t trying to take a moral stance. It’s a very personal story about a father and son. It was about poverty, single parent families, people trying to make it and maybe not having the tools to make it. And I think that’s something that people all over America and the world are going to be able to look at and go, ‘Oh, I know who he is. I know who she is in my life.’ Because there are millions of Rick Wershe Juniors. There are millions of Richard Wershe Seniors. And there are millions of Dawns. These are people that live in the real world, a lot that you may not know about, but they’re here.”  

 

The film's coming together started with a pair of producing teams trying to bring Rick Wershe Jr's story to the big screen.  But the imagery you'll witness in the screens comes from the trio of Director Yann Demange, Cinematographer Tat Radcliffe & Editor Chris Wyatt who cut their teeth working on British shows like Dead Set, Criminal Justice, and Top Dog before giving us '71 the feature film that put Yann out into the world.  The shows and film share the gritty and grimy feel to White Boy Rick.  This film isn't Scarface but rather something similar to FRESH.  White Boy Rick doesn't shy away from the back alley's or the darkened drug dens that the "game" really happens in.  There are moments of wild ass fun like when the crew heads to Vegas to see Tommy Hearns vs Marvelous Marvin Hagler fight.  One of the great fights of boxing history is amazingly similar to White Boy Rick's reign: shocking, short-lived, and bittersweet.  The trio of Demange, Radcliffe, and Wyatt have given us something that showcases the reality while still hitting us in the gut with the emotion of seeing a family torn apart.  

Acting in the film starts with the first person to sign on, McConaughy.  Our favorite Texan dives mullet first into this down and dirty gun runner of a father figure.  His character's heart is in the right place but sadly his mind doesn't seem connected to the best route.  Newcomer Richie Merritt seems to ooze truth in his quality performance as White Boy Rick.  Merritt's lack of screen credits doesn't take away from his flawless portrayal.  He handles his own acting opposite daddy McConaughy or among the rough Curry gang.  Youngest brother Rudell "Boo" Curry is wonderfully played by RJ Cyler.  Cyler has the cool factor down whether it's as Boo, Earl in the great ME, EARL AND THE DYING GIRL, or even as a Power Ranger.  But the Curry brother that truly stands out is the leader "Lil Man" played by somewhat newcomer Jonathan Majors.  Majors and Merritt share some of the film's most intense sequences and sell the film as a real gangster tale.  Bel Powley drug addicted performance as Dawn Wershe is one of the film's best and continues to show her immense range.  But bravo to the casting of veterans like Bruce Dern, Piper Laurie, Eddie Marsan, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Rory Cochrane who all bring there A game.  The acting is as on point as the film's visual style.

Max Richter's haunting score adds a unique element to the film and brings true weight to the tougher scenes.  Overall the movie is one of the fall's first real hits.  Little doubt that Yann Demange is building a nice resume with '71 and White Boy Rick.  Earlier I made the comparison of the film to the Hearns/Hagler war and so I'll end by saying the movie packs just as powerful a punch.  Don't believe me, check out the 1st round of the FIGHT.  And now go see White Boy Rick.

Richie Merritt (White Boy Rick, left) and Matthew McConaughey (Richard Wershe Sr.) star in Columbia Pictures' and Studio 8's WHITE BOY RICK.

 

Directed by Yann Demange
Written By Andy Weiss and Logan/Noah Miller  
Rated R
Selig Rating A
Running Time  1hr  50min
Crime Drama
Wide Release September 14th
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Richie Merritt, RJ Cyler, Bel Powley, and Bruce Dern.
 
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.

    

 

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