December 31, 2018  (Web Review)

White Boy Rick

Sony, 111 min., R, DVD: $30.99, Blu-ray: $34.99, Dec. 25

Reviewer rating: 2.0/4

Despite an intriguing premise, this true crime thriller fails to deliver, wavering between a fractured family saga and the rise-and-fall tale of a crime lord. Richard Wershe Jr.’s (Richie Merritt) story opens in Detroit a few years before he was arrested for drug dealing at the age of 17 in 1987. Raised on the streets, young Rick Jr. can recognize a real AK-47 from an imitation when he goes to a Michigan arms show with his father, Rick Sr. (Matthew McConaughey), who sells guns out of the trunk of his car and makes illegal silencers for automatic weapons in the basement of their home. Rick’s mom is gone and his sister (Bel Powley) is a junkie, leaving his grandparents (Bruce Dern, Piper Laurie) to watch over him. At age 14, Rick Jr. is recruited by FBI agents (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rory Cochrane) and a Detroit narcotics detective (Brian Tyree Henry) to buy and sell drugs undercover as the youngest informant ever. Four years later, after the government no longer requires his services, he becomes America’s youngest cocaine kingpin. Director Yann Demange unfortunately never delves into the psychology of a juvenile criminal and his fast pacing essentially precludes any character development. And while McConaughey’s kinetic energy makes Rick Sr. believable, some of the other casting choices are questionable, particularly inexperienced newcomer Merritt, on whose shoulders the film mostly rests. Optional. [Note: DVD/Blu-ray extras include a trivia track, “The Three Tribes of Detroit” cast featurette (11 min.), “The Unknown True Story of Rick Wershe Jr.” (6 min.), a “making-of” featurette (5 min.), and deleted scenes (7 min.). Exclusive to the Blu-ray is a bonus digital copy of the film. Bottom line: a decent extras package for an unimpressive true thriller.] (S. Granger)