White Boy Rick- decent, but worth the price of admission?

Where the true-crime thriller hits and falls flat.


Photo by Scott Garfield/CTMG

Richie Merritt (left) and Matthew McConaughey star in White Boy Rick.

This weekend I had the opportunity to see the movie “White Boy Rick” starring Matthew McConaughey and Richie Merritt.

On paper, this movie is right up my alley. It’s got the FBI, conspiracy, action and Matthew McConaughey (one of my actors after I saw him in the brilliant Neo-Western, Mud).

Based on a true story, the movie is about a young teenager in 1980’s Detroit who, along with his somewhat deadbeat dad (McConaughey) and drug-addicted sister, begins creating and distributing drugs while working as an informant for the FBI. Along the way, he finds love, becomes a father and becomes one the largest kingpins in the Michigan drug market.

I’m not really sure what I was expecting going onto “White Boy Rick”, but I knew that it at least had some elements that interested me which made it worth the price of admission.

So did the movie live up to what I expected?


I’ll start by saying the acting across the board is really is well done, especially by Merritt and McConaughey. I really enjoyed the father-son dynamic they displayed in the movie. It was realistic and real, brutal and honest and I think when dealing with a real-life story such as this one, it’s important to include all those characteristics into your two main characters.

I also really enjoyed the eighties backdrop with a new perspective. The movie doesn’t rely on hardly any hardcore nostalgia to keep viewers watching, instead focusing on it’s compelling characters.

That isn’t to say there isn’t nods to eighties pop-culture in the film, but in a world dominated by Stranger Things and It and other movies and TV shows that use Speilbergian, suburban, middle-class American nostalgia as a key factor in keeping viewers engaged, it’s refreshing to see the eighties and said culture in the eighties from the view of a poverty-stricken class family in the inner-city. All while not feeling overbearing.

While I enjoyed the performances and the 1980s from a new angle, I did have some issues with the plot and the pacing of which the story is told.

I don’t think that blame can be put completely on the filmmakers for inadequate pacing because “White Boy Rick” is based on a true story. But it often seems, especially the first chunk of the film, that the story is dragging on with Merritt’s introduction to the drug world, almost without a sense of direction. And then in the middle is picks up speed rapidly with his involvement with the FBI all the way through the climax just to end in a quick and, in my opinion, unsatisfying conclusion.

I give the filmmakers credit for cramming four years of real-life story into a few hours but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel choppy.

My other biggest complaint is just what I feel like was misleading advertising. From the trailers and TV ads, I think I was expecting something more along the lines of an action-thriller with a light tone on par with American Made and War Dogs. Instead, the film is a lengthy drama with one or two fairly important action sequences and a half dozen funny jokes.

That being said, I definitely didn’t not enjoy myself watching “White Boy Rick” but I wouldn’t say it’s a movie I fell in love with.

Below is my personal grading scale I grade movies with. I think that number or letter ratings make watching movies, something that should be fun and entertaining, feel like a homework assignment. I hate homework, so my own grading system seems like the way to go.

Joey’s Movie Grading System:

      “I’m buying this movie on 4k!”: This is the highest rating I can give a film. Basically, I loved a movie to the point of wanting to own it on the nicest and most expensive way you can.

      “I’m buying this movie on Blu-Ray”: I really enjoyed the movie I’m talking about to the point where I want to own it and re-watch it in the future.

      “It was fine”: A middle grade rating. A movie that I didn’t find particularly good or bad.

      “Watch it if it’s on RedBox”: A rating second to lowest on the scale. A movie I would only watch if you could rent it for a dollar. In other words, not a good movie.

      “A chore!”: A movie so bad that it felt like something movies should never feel like: homework! I would not recommend you see this movie under any circumstances.

According to my personal grading system, I would put “White Boy Rick” at an “it was fine”. Which it was. It had some redeeming qualities while had some key flaws that turned me off from wanting to own and watch the movie again.