White Boy Rick tells the sordid tale of Rick Wershe Jr. (Richie Merritt) who was a street hustler, FBI informant and a drug kingpin all before the age of sixteen. That is what the poster and trailer reveal. The actual movie is more sordid, squalid and hopeless.
The film is set in mid 1980’s post auto industry crash Detroit, and the crime, devastation, abandonment, poverty, corruption, despair and the limited economic options echo in every frame like the hollowed soul and body of a junkie dying in a crack house. There are hints of living a legitimate life but gangs, guns and drugs are the only easily financially viable ones.
Rick is squeezed between his father’s dream, the FBI, the drug lords and his own ambitions for himself and his family which sees being a drug king pin as the only way to obtain upward mobility. His constant bad choices and blindness are suppose to ring tragic but only leave him looking pathetic. It is hard to see him and his family as a victims of the system when they are constantly making the same bad mistakes.
Merritt, Mathew McConaughey and the rest of the cast deliver believable performances. White Boy Rick just never elevates itself beyond its own squalid dreams.