You know, before seeing the trailer, I had a wildly different idea about what the movie would be about. I mean, really look at the title. “White Boy Rick,” starring Matthew McConaughey. I was thinking a comedy about a mobster named White Boy Rick in a crew of predominantly black mobsters. I guess I wasn’t too far off on the “illegal activities” angle.
The story looks like it’s about a gangster family, revolving mostly around the teenage son, who becomes a well-renowned gangster in his own right and an FBI informant.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Richie Merritt (acting debut; congrats, sir), Matthew McConaughey (THE DARK TOWER , KUBO , and upcoming films SERENITY  and THE BEACH BUM ), Bel Powley (CARRIE PILBY , EQUALS , and the upcoming ASHES IN THE SNOW ), Bruce Dern (NOSTALGIA , THE HATEFUL EIGHT , and upcoming films WARNING SHOT  and AMERICAN DRESSER ), and Piper Laurie (THE FACULTY  and CARRIE ). In support, we have Jennifer Jason Leigh (ANNIHILATION , GOOD TIME , MORGAN , and ANOMALISA ), RJ Cyler (POWER RANGERS  and ME AND EARL ), Eddie Marsan (DEADPOOL 2 , MARK FELT , CONCUSSION , SHERLOCK HOLMES  and A GAME OF SHADOWS , MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III , V FOR VENDETTA , and upcoming films VICE  and FEEDBACK ), Brian Tyree Henry (HOTEL ARTEMIS , CROWN HEIGHTS , and upcoming films WIDOWS  and IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK ), and Rory Cochrane (HOSTILES , BLACK MASS , OCULUS , and the upcoming TYSON’S RUN ).
Now for the crew. Directing, we have Yann Demange, known for stuff I’ve either never heard of or seen. Writing the script, making for a red flag total of three writers, we have Andy Weiss (stuff I’ve either never heard of or seen, and the upcoming BIGGER ), and brothers Logan and Noah Miller (stuff I’ve either never heard of or seen). Composing the score, we have Max Richter, known for HOSTILES, MISS SLOANE (2016), and the upcoming MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS (2018). The cinematographer is Tat Radcliffe, known for stuff I’ve either never heard of or seen. Finally, the editor is Chris Wyatt, known for stuff I’ve either never heard of or seen.
Overall, I’m down for the cast. McConaughey, Powley, Leigh, and Cyler, there’s some interesting talent to say the least. With that said, the trailer itself isn’t doing much for me, so here’s hoping that it’s much better than it looks.
This is my honest opinion of: WHITE BOY RICK
Set in Detroit, Michigan, circa 1984 through 1987. Rick Wershie Jr. (Richie Merritt) is the teenage son of a gun enthusiast, American dream-loving father named Richard Wershie (Matthew McConaughey), who also sells guns without the proper licenses. Turns out, though, Rick is no slouch in his connections to the criminal element either, gaining favor with a local group of thugs led by Johnny “Lil Man” Curry (Jonathan Majors). As he gains a bigger reputation he becomes a target for the FBI, but they recruit him to feed them information on Lil Man and his activities, while also maintaining his relationship with his father and sister Dawn (Bel Powley).
As this review is a tad late, I look back on the movie and I… have very little reaction to it. It’s funny, I was about to start my shift at my day job and I was talking to this guy and we seemed to be on the same wavelength about it. It’s good, but nothing amazing and it had its own set of problems.
The acting is most certainly not what’s wrong with the movie. McConaughey is a total blast, as he usually is. I enjoyed how Richard was so addicted to this belief that he and his son will open up an electronics store, basically the American dream, but he feels so justified that he has to resell firearms on the black market, despite how very illegal it is. I can see a few jokers out there thinking to themselves, “Er, McConaughey, you seem a little too into your character. Open your trunk so I have peace of mind,” he’s just that much fun. But he’s not exactly played like a caricature, he’s got a humane side to him. You can tell that he loves his son and daughter, but because they’re such a dysfunctional family, there’s not a whole lot of effort in keeping it whole. So when Dawn leaves, you can tell that he’s torn up inside. By the way, Powley is absolutely fantastic, having arguably the most heartbreaking scene in the entire movie at one point. I wish she had more screen time. Or, you know, get cast in more mainstream shit that I can see.
But really, some serious props need to go out to Merritt. Don’t know where this dude came from, but I hope to see more of him because he was damn impressive in this. He has solid comedic timing, has great energy, and spot-on intensity that keeps you interested in Rick the entire way through the film. While I can’t claim to know what the real Rick Wershe Jr. was like, I really like how he was portrayed here. He’s a kid who knows way too much about the line of business that he’s in, but it’s totally understandable given the environment that he grew up in. His dad, who’s a hustler, the dangerous people he rolls with, and yet, he’s never portrayed as this blood-hungry dipshit who seems like he wants to take over the world. He just wants to make enough money to help out with his dad and live better lives. He just wants to live in a home where his sister is still around. At the end of the day, this teenager really is just a kid who grew up way too fast. And considering how shafted he gets when he gets locked up for helping the FBI with their shit, it’s downright frustrating and heartbreaking.
The biggest problem is that the movie was a bit too long and not all of the scenes felt super necessary. It’s almost a two hour film and that’s a runtime you feel toward the end of it. Some of the party stuff when they go to Vegas feel like it could have been cut or trimmed down. The movie also has a pretty slow start, so my mind was wandering big time, mostly because the supporting characters were pretty boring.
Overall, the movie isn’t bad, but the length of the movie, as well as the slow burn does chip away at how rewatchable it could be. With that said, it’s not a total loss. Being a character driven movie, the actors do a wonderful job and really sell their roles, especially Merritt. So as a recommendation, I would say if you’re that interested in the story and you have to see it in theaters, wait for a discount day at your local cinema. For everyone else who has a passing interest, it’s a rental.
My honest rating for WHITE BOY RICK: 3/5
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