WHITE BOY RICK

The kid who would be king­pin…

Total Film - - Big Screen -

A t one point in Yann De­mange’s (’71) fact-based com­ing-of-ager, the pro­tag­o­nist is told, “This is Detroit, boy! If you ain’t on the take, you get your ass took!” It’s a line that sums up the moral grey area in which Richard Wer­she Jr. (fresh-faced new­bie Richie Mer­ritt) lives most of an event­ful ado­les­cence that sees him be­come an FBI in­for­mant, a coke-deal­ing hus­tler and the vic­tim of heinous in­jus­tice.

The harsh facts be­hind that lat­ter de­vel­op­ment serve as a bit­ter post­script to what’s oth­er­wise staged as both a jaunty ’80s lark and a dys­func­tional fam­ily drama. Rick’s fa­ther (Matthew McConaughey) is a chancer with big dreams. His sis­ter (Bel Pow­ley), mean­while, is a crack ad­dict. Full of lurid clob­ber and disco bangers the film in­vites us to ad­mire Rick’s guile as he goes from re­luc­tant fink to ac­tual king­pin, much to the dis­may of the un­der­cover Feds (Rory Cochrane and Jen­nifer Ja­son Leigh) who re­cruited him in the first place.

There’s much to like in Mer­ritt’s nat­u­ral­is­tic per­for­mance. Yet it’s hard to feel too sorry for a kid who, in this telling at least, ap­par­ently doesn’t need much en­cour­age­ment to em­bark upon a dou­ble-life of crime. Neil Smith

THE VER­DICT

An en­gross­ing, some­times tense, but ul­ti­mately rather uned­i­fy­ing crimes-of-pas­sage story.

“fol­low me son and one day you could have a stun­ning mous­tache too…”

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