There is an aura floating around White Boy Rick largely suggesting it is a feature based upon a groundbreaking idea, becoming an overly egotistical look at the life of Rick Wersche Jr., the FBI’s youngest ever informant. It certainly isn’t a incredibly new idea with its trashy characters and focus on gang culture, and all that does is make the bigheadedness seem irritatingly cocky.
Rick (Richie Merritt) is a teenager living with his abusive father Richard (Matthew McConaughey) and junkie sister Dawn (Bel Powley) in ‘80’s Detroit. Desperate to make his own way in life, Rick resorts to selling guns for his father, and ultimately drugs to the surrounding area. Yet when the FBI catch on to what the 14 year old is up to, Rick is dragged into an operation leaving him at risk to everyone around him.
There are numerous attempts throughout White Boy Rick to get the audience on Rick’s side, but these are wasted on a character, who in this incarnation, is not worth the time. The story outweighs the quality of the film, leaving a want for a documentary looking into the actual events, rather than a reconstruction.
At no point does Rick become a likeable, relatable or interesting character, of which an audience can feel sympathetic towards. However the blame doesn’t necessarily fall on Richie Merritt, but director Yann Demange, who absolutely fails to transfer Rick onto the big screen. Yes his personality and outward demeanour may be calmer or less intrusive than a usual big screen lead, but that doesn’t mean the drama and excitement need to take a step back. There is very little charisma about the whole picture, and that leaves it struggling for breathing room, and ultimately, quality.
White Boy Rick struggles with its complicated story line, difficult characters and convoluted script, that leads to a failed attempt at hard-hitting and shocking drama. It’s easy to dislike the characters for their actions, but the film is obsessed with trying to make everyone fall for Rick. It was the wrong path to take.
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