Hey 3.5 readers. Do me a favor. If any of you are in Detroit, MOVE ok?
BQB here with a review of “White Boy Rick.”
Based on a true story, it’s the 1980s and Rick Wershe Sr. (Matthew McConaughey) is a small time gun runner, doing illicit arms sales on the sly in the hopes of raising enough money to pull his family out of poverty. His wife has left him. His son, Rick Jr. (Richie Merritt) is going nowhere and his daughter, Dawn (Bel Powley) is a junkie. Oh, and his parents (Piper Laurie and Bruce Dern) live next door and pull no punches in letting Rick know how disappointed they are in him.
Blah, blah, blah, I won’t give away too much but suffice to say that Rick Sr.’s petty dabbling in crooked schemes gives his 15 year old son a taste for the criminal underworld. Alas, Rick Jr. is a better crook than his old man ever could be and is quickly welcomed into a black gang who affectionately dub their new recruit as “White Boy Rick.”
Yadda, yadda, yadda. Chaos ensues. The FBI (Jennifer Jason Leigh in a potential comeback role) sets up Rick with the “product” he needs to get in deep and become a major player, allowing him to keep his profits while he informs on kingpins.
After awhile, it all gets confusing and it is hard to keep track of who is playing who. Rick Jr. is portrayed well by Merritt, who plays the character as a dope who doesn’t really understand the gravity of the situation he’s in and sort of just lucks his way into a life of crime, “luck” being a dubious word as the money is nice for awhile until the luck runs out and the shit hits the fan as it always does.
McConaughey turns in a great performance as Rick Sr. who truly loves his kids but…maybe it’s out of desperation, maybe out of stupidity, maybe out of a need to be somebody, goes along with Rick Jr.’s schemes and is tortured as to what is right and wrong. Is it right to stand by while his son gets deeper into a life of crime? Is it right to try to make him stop when all he has to offer is a life of poverty?
SPOILER: There’s a scene where Matthew really exercises his acting chops, caring for his daughter while she’s coming down off of drugs. She screams at him. Curses him. Fights him. Pukes all over. Matthew just takes it with the face of a father showing his kid unconditional love. Now that’s acting.
I have mixed feelings because while Rick Sr. and Jr. are portrayed as poor folk who fall prey to lack of economic opportunity, desperation to get ahead, and being duped by the criminal justice system. In many ways I feel for them because yeah, holy shit, it’s tough out there and perhaps Rick got a raw deal given that, according to this movie, the Feds basically pushed the kid into a life of crime and if they hadn’t he probably would have just been a regular poor teen staring at the ceiling of his bedroom.
On the other hand, you know, they did sell guns and drugs and in doing so most likely got a lot of people hurt…I don’t know. It’s not up to me to moralize. Overall, a good film, good story….interesting subtext that White Boy Rick is instantly taken in not just by a black gang, loved and treated as one of their. Not exactly sure this was Dr. King’s dream when he said he wanted black and white people to come together in peace and harmony but hey, it’s a movie.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy. Didn’t really get what Rick’s stoner accent was all about. Possible Oscar bait. Matthew’s already got one but he really brought the “I just don’t want my kids to think I’m a loser dad anymore” game. Bruce has got one too and although he’s not in it for long, he does steal a few scenes as the irate grampa trying to teach his son and grandson a thing or two.