White Boy RIck

Sep 12, 2018

Depressing low-life story in Detroit about a boy drug kingpin. See McConaughey out act everyone else on  screen.

White Boy Rick

Grade: C+

Director: Yann Demange (Top Boy)

Screenplay: Andy Weiss (The Myersons), Logan Miller (Sweetwater), Noah Miller (Touching Home)

Cast: Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club), Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight)

Rating: R

Runtime: 1 hr 50 min

By: John DeSando

I am surprised that many people disregard the fact that the end for almost all drug dealers ends up being the cemetery or the jail cell, we do not know of any case where a drug dealer has ‘retired.’ "  Juan Pablo Escobar

Arguably the gloomiest film of the year, White Boy Rick tells of teen Ricky Wershe (Richie Merritt) in 1980’s Detroit sucked into drug dealing by both his poverty and the encouragement of the police, who use him in their fruitless campaign to stop the flow. Although Ricky is essentially naïve, his father Rick, played by the excellent Matthew McConaughey, is not.

As a registered arms dealer, he is well aware of the dangers of 

the drug business, trying to steer his son clear of it, and himself.

The decaying buildings of Detroit are an apt metaphor for the decline of the family that includes aging grandparents and a struggling sister, Dawn (Bel Powley). No one is unaffected by Ricky’s careless descent, yet the presence of the police gives them hope for a better ending.

The film, based on a true story, makes its point about the injustice of non-violent convictions as Ricky, even through the intercession of the FBI, is given life. Michigan’s minimum calls for it, although after Ricky, the law was changed.

After being a street hustler, drug kingpin, and FBI informant, ricky served 30 years before being paroled. Although his small child can give him hope for a complicated future with her, most who leave the theater can only shakes their heads at a family reduced to crime and a system whose crime is to exceed reason with its judgments.

To see a more sophisticated version of this low-life world, see Johnny Depp play Boston’s premier hood, Whitey Bulger, in Black Mass.  Although Depp’s performance mirrors McConaughey’s, Black Mass has more depth of story and overall acting. If you enjoyed McConaughey in his award-winning Dallas Buyers Club role, watch him as a much grittier dealer here—he more than anyone else can make you feel grimy.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at