White Boy Rick
There are many incredulous stories in the world that are turned into movies, just take last year’s American Made. The Tom Cruise film had so much content, you were nearly overwhelmed that so much could happen to one person. However, when a story has too much to tell, sometimes a film’s running time can be too short.
White Boy Rick is the true story of Rick (Richie Merritt) who in 1980s Detroit, by the age of 17, had already become a drug kingpin and FBI informant.
The film is brought to life by director Yann Demange and the French director racks up a talented cast to surround Merritt. Bel Powley, Bruce Dern, and Piper Laurie all have brief but strong turns as family members, but it’s Matthew McConaughey who steals the show as Ricky’s father. The Texan actor imbues his character with a restrained sadness so that his tragic father figure becomes the beating heart of the film. McConaughey is so compelling that you end up wanting the film to be more about him that his son.
The fact that McConaughey’s character overshadows the intriguing protagonist is a sign of the weaknesses in the film. Newcomer Merritt is not a bad actor and yet we’re left wanting so much more; the character of Rick on paper seems like this complex boy with clashing emotions, but Merritt only gives us a monotone performance only enhanced by artificial tears every now and then. The pacing of the story is too fast for the events depicted; the audience isn’t able to digest each incredulous happenstance before we move to the next one. A mini-series would have allowed the story and characters to breathe as well as develop some sort of depth with the supporting characters.
In the end White Boy Rick leaves you wanting for so much more considering the subject of the film. The execution doesn’t live up to its premise, and while McConaughey delivers some of the best work of his career, it isn’t enough to electrify this film into something more.