White Boy Rick a flat ren­der­ing of true story

White Boy Rick ★★ (out of 5) Di­rec­tor: Yann De­mange Star­ring: Richie Mer­ritt, Matthew McConaughey, Bel Pow­ley Run­ning time: 1 hours, 50 min.

Standard-Freeholder (Cornwall) - - ENTERTAINMENT - CHRIS KNIGHT ck­night@post­media.com

White Boy Rick is based on a true story, which makes it feel churl­ish not to like it more; it’s like I’m say­ing that Richard Wer­she’s life as the youngest FBI in­for­mant in his­tory isn’t in­ter­est­ing enough.

But I’m go­ing to blame Andy Weiss and Noah and Lo­gan Miller — white boys all — for a screen­play that fails to hook us with Rick’s story, and that rel­e­gates most of the kid’s black friends to lit­tle more than back­ground char­ac­ters.

First-time ac­tor Richie Mer­ritt was just 15 when he was cast in the role of Richard Wer­she Jr., and he man­ages ably enough, al­though he is oc­ca­sion­ally in the shadow of Matthew McConaughey, who plays his hun­gry, huck­ster dad.

We first meet the two of them at a gun show in 1984. Ju­nior si­dles up to a seller and dis­plays knowl­edge be­yond his years about the mer­chan­dise. At a crit­i­cal mo­ment, Dad ar­rives to in­form the seller that this prospec­tive buyer is un­der­age; they get a good deal in ex­change for their si­lence. All Wer­she Sr. re­ally wants is to open a video rental store, but be­fore he can make that hap­pen, the FBI, rep­re­sented by Jen­nifer Ja­son Leigh and Rory Cochrane threaten to bust him for traf­fick­ing. But they cut a deal with the kid; if he’ll do a lit­tle drug deal­ing in his Detroit neigh­bour­hood and let them know where the prod­uct goes, they’ll leave his pop alone.

Rick Jr. is ex­cited at the money he can make, and agrees to the plan. Di­rec­tor Yann De­mange made the ex­cel­lent, un­der-ap­pre­ci­ated 2014 film ’71, about the Trou­bles in North­ern Ire­land, but he loses his way in the streets of Detroit.

Part of the prob­lem is the short shrift given to var­i­ous sub­plots, in­clud­ing Bel Pow­ley as Rick’s drug-ad­dicted sis­ter; Bruce Dern and Piper Lau­rie as his grand­par­ents; and a host of black ac­tors — RJ Cyler, Jonathan Ma­jors, hip hop artist YG, etc. — in thinly writ­ten, al­most in­ter­change­able roles as push­ers and users.

You can Google Richard Wer­she Jr. to learn the de­tails of his life, some of which is ex­plained in ti­tles be­fore the end cred­its roll. It’s a sad story of a young, naive and un­der­priv­i­leged boy used by the sys­tem for its own ends. But White Boy Rick can’t man­age to cap­ture the ex­cite­ment of that life as it was un­furl­ing, nor the sad­ness we feel look­ing back on it. The kid de­served bet­ter; he still does.


Richie Mer­ritt stars as Richard Wer­she in White Boy Rick. The movie por­trays the real-life story of Wer­she, who be­came Amer­ica’s youngest in­for­mant.

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