Plot: What’s it about?
I’m of the mindset that any movie that takes place in (or around) Detroit is most likely not going to be uplifting. I suppose the one exception that I can think of would be one of my personal favorites – Grosse Point Blank. That lone exception aside, Detroit in film or in real life, simply has had its share of problems. Simply put, there are better places around the country to tell a story. But after watching White Boy Rick, I suppose this was the perfect locale. Nevertheless, for those that have an interest in the 1980’s drug scene in one of America’s most crime-ridden cities, this tale depicts, with gritty realism, the story of Richard Wershe, Jr. (aka “White Boy Rick”).
Richard Wershe, Jr. (Richie Merritt) and his father, Rick (Matthew McConaughey) are making a living. Rick Sr. is a licensed arms dealer who modifies his purchases in the basement and sells them onto the local drug dealers. His goal is to one day earn enough money to open up a video store. Rick’s mother had left the family years before and his sister, Dawn (Bel Powley) is struggling with drug addiction. Rick is approached by the FBI to help bring some of the drug dealers to justice else they’ll arrest Rick Sr. for his “business.” Rick then has to balance working with the feds all the while not getting gunned down by thugs he spends most of his time with. It’s an offer he should have, but couldn’t, refuse.
There are some seasoned actors in the film along with some new talent. It’s actor Richie Merritt’s first acting role. And he manages to hold his own with the likes of Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Jason Leigh. For added nostalgia we’ve got Bruce Dern in the role of Rick Sr.’s next door neighbor/father. The film has some hard moments to watch, but the overall tone is a bit all over the place. Things are glossed over like the birth of Rick Jr.’s son and Dawn’s struggle with addiction. Rather more time seems to be spent with the 80’s look and feel. But if a realistic, true story of the 80’s drug scene is what you’re after – this one, along with Scarface, does do the trick.
Video: How’s it look?
There’s not a lot of color in the film, with most scenes taking place indoors or at night. The 2.39:1 AVC HD image does do a great job of giving the movie its own temperament. Contrast is strong, with bold black shadows not suffering in the least. Detail is amazing, you can see the interlocking links of the plethora of gold chains worn. Flesh tones seem a bit on the washed out side, but considering the film’s tone, I’m certain this was done by design. If the idea was to convey a dreary, drab way of life then White Boy Rick nailed it.
Audio: How’s it sound?
I found McConaughey’s rather obscure accent more of a distraction than anything. That, coupled with Richie Merritt’s mumbling of his words, didn’t exactly scream “thespian” while watching the film. Still, I realize that Merritt had no acting experience and it’s always nice not to hear McConaughey’s trademark southern drawl. That said, the front stage shoulders the majority of the burden of the soundtrack with surrounds chiming in on a few occasions. There are a few club scenes, but by and large this one is dialogue-driven.
Supplements: What are the extras?
- Deleted Scenes – Half a dozen are shown here, none of which seem to offer anything really substantial to the film.
- Featurettes – A quartet are thrown in for good measure.
- The Unknown True Story of Rick Wershe, Jr. – A five minute feature with some vintage news clips that give us a glimpse of .
- The Three Tribes of Detroit: The Cast – As expected, a look at the cast of the film.
- The Making of White Boy Rick – Your standard EPK with talking heads, behind the scenes footage as well as brief synopsis of the movie and its premise.
- Trivia Track – I tend to find these distracting, but if you do want some facts that pop up along the way, they’re here for you.
The Bottom Line
While not a bad film, I found the pacing and overall storyline a bit, well, depressing. I had no prior knowledge of the story and the trailers were pretty misleading – giving the film an action-packed feeling. Still, the film features some good performances and I have to give McConaughey credit – he did step out of his comfort zone. Sony’s Blu-ray looks and sounds good and features just enough extras for those that are fans – a worthy purchase.