Cinematic Releases: Antihero of Detroit: White Boy Rick (2018) Reviewed

As the fall theatrical season opens its doors to the bleakness of the films that weren’t good enough to make the summer cut, White Boy Rick comes along with a couple baggies of crack rock and delivers a sympathetic tale of a Detroit native sucked into a world of drugs and crime. Watching the once great industrial city begin to crumble around him, Rich Wershe Jr. became an antihero of Detroit. With a sister that was drugged out of her mind, a dad that was selling guns out of his trunk, and an existence that was defined by cold, hard cash, this reality tale falls into a ravine of boredom from its opening moments. 

Damn straight, Dawn. We're starting a Detroit Buyers Club. 

The true life story is pretty damn exciting for those of us that grew up in the area during the mid-'80s. For years we’ve waited for his story to transition to the screen, even as Rick Wershe Jr. still sits behind metal bars. Finally hitting the major cinematic chains this weekend, White Boy Rick’s journey is told by a director that hampers his delivery at every single turn. Turning what should have been a massive achievement into a butcher block of unused talent, this disastrous drama is one hundred percent dead on arrival. Simply put, Yann Demange doesn't know how to handle this type of material. Instead of drawing realistic performances from his actors, he insists on some type of low brow melodrama that has no hook, no sinker, and abysmally no reason to watch. 

Flat footed acting, no editing style whatsoever, a lackluster soundtrack and painful repetition from McConaughey is astounding and yet so expected it actually hurts to watch. We’ve see him play this character so many times now, it’s simply boring to lay your eyes on. Adding in first time actor Richie Merritt as the title character is even more confusing. Not to dismiss his effort and bravery for fronting a major motion picture, but his acting is remedial when balanced against name stars like McConaughey, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Bruce Dern, who each walk through this with no dynamic whatsoever. Even worse is Bel Powley's portrayal of the soul sucking Dawn Wershe. 

Great crime movies rely on making the audience feel like they’re part of the action. They suck us into their world. They make us want to commit to their way of life, if even just for a couple hours. When you watch Goodfellas, audiences are taken in by the riches, the escapism, and the unmistakable violence. It's why we watch. We want to be transported out of our everyday existence into something exciting or dramatically different than the day to day life we lead.

Dad, why do you have that mullet? You should
have a white boy matted fro like me!

Yet, White Boy Rick does the exact opposite. Everything is so disjointed that it  actually makes 2015’s Black Mass look like high art worthy of every Oscar under the sun. It literally pained me to finish watching this low caliber piece of cinematic nonsense. Listening to audience members snore through half the movie convinces me that I'm not totally crazy here. White Boy Rick may have a great story to tell but it's probably better said by a director that knows how to make these types of films.