“White Boy Rick” a gritty biopic of figure

Phil Boulware , Staff Reporter

This film gives viewers a look into the life of Rick Wershe Jr.|Photo courtesy of The Stranger

“White Boy Rick” is based on Richard Wershe Jr.’s teenage years as an FBI-informant-turned- drug-dealer in the mid-1980s of an inner city neighborhood of Detroit, MI. The story details his life from 14 years of age up until his incarceration.

The story follows Richard Wershe Jr., played by Richie Merritt, willing to do anything it takes to help his low income family. His father, portrayed by Academy Award winner, Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyer’s Club, Wolf of Wall Street) is a registered firearms dealer who works independently. Wershe Sr., makes transactions to various clients including high-profile drug organizations, which lands him on the bureau’s radar as they have an ongoing investigation on some of his clients.

As the bureau closes in on the father, the son voluntarily becomes an informant for the FBI. The federal agents, portrayed by Jennifer Jason Leigh (Hateful Eight, Fast Times at Ridgemont High), Rory Cochrane (Argo, Black Mass), and Brian Tyree Henry (Hotel Artemis, Atlanta), give great performances as manipulative officers that coerce the teen into infiltrating a prominent drug organization with ties to the city’s mayor.

Wershe Jr., who gains the trust of the organization led by actor Johnny Curry (Hostiles), befriends several of his members including his younger brother, Bu, which is played by RJ Cyler (Power Rangers; Me, Earl, and The Dying Girl). The officers betray the teen’s trust when they go against what was promised when they make drug busts. Soon after the bureau conducts their raids, the teen decides to make the transition to becoming a drug dealer which introduces more problems for him.  

The film provides its viewers with much insight into the life of Wershe while also providing solid performances by the entire cast led by newcomer Meritt in his acting debut as well as the veteran actor McConaughey. The story didn’t try to make any of its characters out to be saints, but you certainly develop a great deal of empathy.

The story shows Rick often in vulnerable positions where he is betrayed by almost everyone he is close to as his life slowly unravels. Viewers get to see a gritty, unflinching look into Detroit’s poverty, drug problems and corruption in the 1980s where millions were made.

With gripping performances by its cast along with great screenwriting, the film allows its audience to see how White Boy Rick gained prominence and earned his reputation.