Being a teenager means dealing with some of life’s earliest challenges: dating, school, sports, friends and growing up in general. In the film White Boy Rick, those aren’t the only challenges faced by one Detroit-area young man.
Richard Wershe Sr. (Matthew McConaughey) makes a living buying and selling guns on the streets of Detroit. He has taught his son Ricky Wershe Jr. (Richie Merritt) the intricacies of the world of weapons. But the teenage Ricky wants more and beginning at age 14 he became a street hustler, FBI Informant and later moved to drug kingpin — he gets so much more
While his dad dreams of opening up a number of video stores to capitalize on the burgeoning technology and rationalizes his gun sales as the means to get there, Ricky takes note of his surroundings and starts to do some business of his own.
Dealing in weapons, the two are bound to make enemies, including FBI agents Snyder (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Byrd (Rory Cochrane). These industrious agents decide that Ricky just might be the conduit to arresting some of the biggest fish in the Detroit criminal scene. Life is about to become very different for the younger Wershe, now known in his community simply as White Boy Rick.
Based on a true story that needs to be seen to be believed, White Boy Rick delivers a dramatic vision of mid ’80s Detroit and life on the streets. From the opening scenes, we are transported to a world where it is every man and woman for themselves, and the visuals surrounding everyone are disturbingly real.
Merritt takes his first major acting job as Ricky and makes it his own. His rough and ragged style adds authenticity to the role. McConaughey, in his truly chameleon-like way, becomes Richard Sr., and you never doubt his good intentions hidden behind his illegal activity.
The story is the thing with this film — one man’s struggle to raise his kids and his 14-year-old son’s attempts to keep his dad and sister safe by doing the right thing, the wrong thing or literally any necessary thing.
It’s a stark reality, played out onscreen. Is Ricky Wershe Jr. a hero, a villain or something else? The answer may not be quite as clear as viewers would like, but White Boy Rick will put you right in the middle of the era to let you decide. Life comes at us fast; we can either make a decision or the decision makes us. Age is just a number, and Ricky embodies that in everything he does.
White Boy Rick is available On Demand and DVD beginning 12/25. Check your cable system for availability