‘White Boy Rick’ misses its opportunities, underwhelms

This image released by Sony Pictures shows and Matthew McConaughey, left, and Richie Merritt in a scene from "White Boy Rick." (Scott Garfield/Sony/Columbia Pictures and Studio 8 via AP)

I’m puzzled about what this film’s problem was. I’m not sure if there was too much content in too little time or not enough content in a drawn-out film. Whatever it was, “White Boy Rick” turns an interesting true story into one that is boring and forgettable.

In 1980s Detroit, Rick Wershe Sr. (Matthew McConaughey) is struggling to raise two teenagers alone. He makes ends meet by selling guns illegally, which attracts his son, Rick Wershe Jr. (Richie Merritt). Rick Jr. soon finds himself involved in becoming an FBI informant of the crack epidemic in exchange to keep his dad from being incarcerated. White boy Rick gets a taste of the potential profit of drug dealing, and soon becomes a dealer himself.

The film impressed me as it managed to make me feel both overwhelmed and underwhelmed simultaneously. The movie chose to focus on nonessential parts that felt like wasted minutes on the running time. There were times when the film kept on jumping around that did not encourage me to stay on track. Not only that, but it should have paid more attention to the bigger parts in Rick Jr.’s life. The audience was told what happened instead of shown several times. This extended into the moments when everything worked out conveniently for the young dealer just too quickly.

For example, everyone liked Rick without hesitation, including a hostile gang. These lazily-written scenes kept on reminding me of the struggling script.

The pairing of decent characterizations with strong performances was enough to keep me in the theater. Rick Sr. and Jr. were well fleshed out, giving some life to the movie. I did feel pity and sympathy for each as the film made sure to take its time on these two.

Richie Merritt’s debut in the titular role was solid, as he encapsulated the punky yet endearing qualities of the confused teen. The real show-stealer was McConaughey; hands-down he was the best part of the film. He played the role so genuinely that it made me forget he was playing a character sometimes. I saw a real father. That’s talent.

Not much else stood out however. There was average directing, editing and filming. To add onto that, when the credits rolled, I felt cheated. After sitting through that boring film, I believe the audience deserves at least some satisfaction.

“White Boy Rick” is plainly a missed opportunity. Its disappointing script couldn’t be redeemed by the great performances, not even McConaughey’s. Maybe the film would be more memorable if he was at the center and the film was titled White Man Rick. Actually, that still wouldn’t save it.

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