White Boy Rick (2018) - USA
Reviewed by Andrew Chan (Film Critics Circle of Australia)
Based on the true story of the youngest FBI informant Richard Wershe Jr, the film stays extremely grounded and surprisingly suffers from a lack of sensationalise cliches that could have elevated it to a different level. Instead, director Yann Demange wants to focus the story on the titled character and end up lacking any sympathy on the black demographics that was also hit badly by the drug wars where many lives and families were destroyed in the process. We get a Matthew McConaughey again in top form channeling his Oscar winning role in “Dallas Buyers Club”, whilst being critically underplayed.
Young star Richie Merritt plays the titled character, FBI informant, drug dealer and later sentenced to life imprisonment. Merritt plays the role like a curious kid trying out new things and hanging around the black community. The problem of this all is that Merritt isn’t exactly the most expressive character making it hard for the audience to relate emotionally. Matthew McConaughey on the other hand excels in the messy father figure role who is both a gun seller and street hustler struggling to meet ends. McConaughey shows a lot of depth and the internal struggle in trying to stay positive despite all that is going on, from family issues, daughter hooked on drugs and enforcement concerns. Bel Powley goes extremely well in a small role as the drug inflicted sister.
All in all, “White Boy Rick” is unlikely to win any Oscars as it ultimately plays too safe to be stunning or even have any significant effect on the awaiting audience. For those memorable films like “Scarface” for instance contain a smashing scene that strikes you right in the heart and mind. This film contains none of that and in the process remain extremely average throughout despite some good performances and a premises that is simply waiting for that one cliche yet memorable moment to elevate it to the next level.
I rated it 7.5/10