White Boy Rick

Based on an incredibly true story, White Boy Rick is a well-done crime drama that vividly explores the underbelly of 1980s Detroit through the eyes of the street hustler and drug dealer Rick Wershe Jr. who became the youngest FBI informant in history, as well as his very troubled father. Played by the mesmerizing Oscar winner Matthew McConaughay in yet another gritty performance, the older Wershe tries to be a supporting father to his son and drug-addicted daughter but constantly struggles to make ends meet in the economically depressed city of Detroit and resorts to selling illegal guns. In order to get his father out of legal trouble and financially help his dysfunctional family that also includes his rather profane grandfather played by Oscar nominee Bruce Dern, the fifteen-year-old Rick Jr., played by the terrific new coming actor Richie Merritt, decides to work with the FBI, including two undercover agents played by Jennifer Jason Leigh and Brian Tyree Henry. To help further the FBI’s sting operation targeting the crack epidemic, he is recruited to become a smalltime drug dealer selling to his criminal friends and others in exchange for partial immunity for him and his father. However, Rick Jr. becomes enamored by the flashy lifestyle and decides to become more of a self-made drug kingpin selling much more crack cocaine beyond what the FBI approves. Towards the climax and end of the movie, things get increasingly precarious for the now sixteen-year-old hustler and drug dealer, and he even gets shot in a turf war between rival gangs. Furthermore, the protection that the FBI promised him begins to fall apart and Rick Jr. is faced with long imprisonment for selling narcotics over a certain threshold. At that point, the film evolves into something very different from what the audience was expecting as a simple crime drama; the story delves into the problems of the criminal justice system in such a crime-ridden city as Detroit and the rather unfair mandatory minimums for drug offenses. Overall, although there were several flaws that made the film a missed opportunity, I found it to stand out as a result of the terrific performances and its fascinating depiction of a rather unbelievable and mostly unheard-of true story.

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