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White Boy Rick


Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Richie Merritt, Bel Powley, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rory Cochrane, Brian Tyree Henry, RJ Cyler, Eddie Marsan, Bruce Dern, Piper Laurie

Director: Yann Demange

Newcomer Merritt makes an impressive screen debut as eponymous teenager Rick Wershe Jr who became the legendary drug dealer known as 'Cocaine Kingpin', complete with a Mercedes, in crack-ridden Detroit in the mid-1980s, and then became the youngster-ever informant recruited by the FBI before being betrayed by the law and imprisoned.

Star name McConaughey scores with his cleverly understated performance as Rick's blue collar licenced weapons dealer father. Unfortunately for Merritt, who has been swiping his father's guns and selling them, the FBI catch on and force the teenager to become an informant to keep his father out of prison.

Screenwriters Andy Weiss, Logan Miller and Noah Miller heap on the angst with a subplot involving McConaughey's drug-addicted daughter; and a strong supporting cast (not always given the dramatic opportunities their talents deserve) includes Dern, amusing as Merritt's grandfather, Leigh, and, somewhat unexpectedly, Marsan as a Miami drugs baron.

French director Demange maintains an effective-enough pace, making good use of the (fake, as so often is the case in Hollywood) locations: while White Boy Rick is set in Detroit, location filming took place in Cleveland, Ohio.

But despite strong key performances and a taut narrative, the film bombed at the US box-office.

That said, Merritt's dramatic debut is still worth watching.

But real life trumps Show Business yet again

The Michigan Parole Board voted to release Wershe Jr - whose original release date was April 2021 - in 2017 but, transferred to the custody of the Florida Department of Corrections, he was kept in captivity. Now he is scheduled to be freed in November 2020.

Alan Frank

USA 2018. UK Distributor: Sony. Colour.
111 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 2, Drugs 2, Swearing 2.

Review date: 02 Jan 2019