White Boy Rick

The Guardian - G2 - - Games - Cath Clarke

★★★☆☆ Dir Yann De­mange Star­ring Matthew McConaughey, Richie Mer­ritt, Bel Pow­ley Dur 111 mins Cert 15

With a greasy mul­let and droop­ing cater­pil­lar mous­tache, Matthew McConaughey is once again chan­nelling failed se­cond­hand car sales­man in White Boy Rick, a some­what flavour­less low-en­ergy crime drama di­rected by Yann De­mange, who made the ter­rific Trou­bles thriller ’71. The film is in­spired by the story of Rick Wer­she, the FBI’s youngest ever in­for­mant at 14, who helped bring down a string of drug deal­ers and cor­rupt cops in the 1980s. After be­ing dropped by the feds, Wer­she was him­self ar­rested on co­caine charges and jailed for life at 17, his car num­ber plate – “Snow­man” – pre­sum­ably a big clue for in­ves­ti­ga­tors. McConaughey plays his gun-lovin’ dad Rick Sr.

We first meet Rick Jr (new­comer Richie Mer­ritt) at home in sub­ur­ban Detroit. The muddy-coloured pe­riod de­tail feels spot on, all rusted pick-up trucks and the end of au­tumn decay of a city rav­aged by car-fac­tory job losses and crack co­caine. Rick Sr is a dreamer who makes ends meet by selling guns and tip-offs to the FBI.

Dur­ing a home visit, his han­dler – with zero scru­ples about ex­ploit­ing a mi­nor – re­cruits Rick Jr, in­struct­ing him to buy crack to help gather ev­i­dence against deal­ers. Pretty soon Rick Jr is in the game him­self, selling drugs un­der the street­name White Boy Rick. Do­ing her best with a mis­er­ably thin role, Jen­nifer Ja­son Leigh is the FBI’s lead of­fi­cer.

There’s some nice fa­ther-and­son drama here that points to the uni­ver­sal ex­pe­ri­ence of dads who find them­selves de­moted from om hero to dead­beat loser in the eyes of their sons as they grow older; der; McConaughey brings real en­ergy ergy and warmth to Rick Sr. What’s ’s miss­ing is per­haps a sense of f the wider so­cial cost of Rea­gan­ite e drug poli­cies. The is­sue is not that t the film fo­cuses on a white kid, but that it doesn’t seem much h in­ter­ested in the black lives hit dis­pro­por­tion­ately hard by the he war on drugs.

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