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True crime is a hot commodity and is usually more thrilling than fiction for audiences simply because, well... It actually happened. However, in the past, true crime has often lost its momentum due to showrunners and filmmakers straying away from and over exaggerating what REALLY happened with the attempts of making it more cinematic, much like films such as American Made starring Tom Cruise, the story about the notorious drug smuggler, Barry Seal. It has shown that true crime movies and TV shows that have stayed true to the original stories have gained more success than those that don't. More or less. This genre isn't the only one of course. There are many genres that cater to the notion of "selling out."
White Boy Rick is a true crime drama about a young man who became an FBI informant and drug dealer during the unforgiving hard times in 1980s Detroit. This film really took us to the streets. Showing audiences the depression and desperation of "making it big" in a slum where drugs, gang violence and murder were part of everyday life. The film shines through it's true-to-life expose of a teenager growing up with two incomplete lives the only way he knows how. The hustle.
During the first act, we see Rick with his father, Rick Wershe Sr. played by Matthew McConaughey buying guns (legally) at a gun show. We are then presented with scenes involving Rick Jr. and Rick Sr. selling them illegally with charisma of expert salesmen. It showed how Rick Jr. was becoming like his dad but in his own way. When he goes to the drug dealers to sell them guns, Rick changes from being his father's protege to being a drug dealer on his own. This character development builds and plays out well in the film. The overall character development was relatable and brought us into their struggles.
The acting was great but often felt soft and easy to drown out at times. Richie Merritt's performance lacked emotion in many scenes that added the tear jerking factor in this film. Where our protagonist Rick Jr. was meant to carry the performance, it was left up to his co-stars to the wheel. McConaughey was incredible as always. He carried the criminal, side hustling patriarch well. Rick's crack addicted sister Dawn, played by Bel Powley, was the performer who impressed me the most. There was a scene between the three of them that involved Rick Jr. and Rick Sr. taking Dawn out of a drug den that really got me choked up—a very powerful performance from Bel Powley that I would like to see more of in future productions. But as stated above, the emotional pull that Richie Merritt's performance failed to deliver on or at least support, Powley and McConaughey had to make up for. It's not the responsibility of the lead role to outshine the other cast and carry the emotion of the story entirely. But it is, however, important for them to be the driving force behind the story and lead us through the plot. To put us in their shoes. The important element that the protagonist should deliver on is often misled and absent from Richie Merritt's performance.
Overall, White Boy Rick is worth watching for fans of heavy drama and true crime. It's a film that delivers the characters essential nature honestly and with emotional depth. It may get a few Oscar nods for its willingness to bring in a fresh true-to-life crime story and make it cinematic. However, it may be overshadowed by the likes of other true crime films that have come out earlier. Nevertheless, White Boy Rick is worth seeing.