WHITE BOY RICKY – Review by Susan Granger

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Despite an intriguing premise, this true crime thriller fails to deliver, primarily because the trio of screenwriters don’t maintain a focused vision, wavering between a fractured family saga and the rise-and-fall of a crime lord. Since nothing is fleshed out, it’s not emotionally involving.

Richard Wershe Jr.’s story opens in Detroit a few years before he (Richie Merritt) was arrested for drug dealing at age 17 in 1987.

Raised on the streets, young Rick Jr. can recognize a real AK-47 from an imitation when he goes to a Michigan arms show with his grifter father, Rick Sr. (Matthew McConaughey), who sells guns out of the trunk of his car and makes illegal silencers for automatic weapons in the basement of their home.

Rick’s mom is gone and his sister Dawn (Bel Powley) is a junkie, leaving his grandparents (Bruce Dern, Piper Laurie) to keep an eye on things.

At age 14, Rick Jr. is recruited by FBI agents (Jennifer Jason Leigh, Rory Cochrane) and a Detroit narcotics detective (Brian Tyree Henry) to buy and sell drugs undercover as the youngest informant ever. Four years later, when the government no longer requires his services, he becomes America’s youngest cocaine kingpin.

Working from a weak script by Andy Weiss, Logan Miller and Noah Miller, French Algerian director Yann Demange never delves into the psychology of a juvenile criminal. In addition, his fast pacing precludes character development, particularly during Rick’s first visit to the roller-skating rink hangout.

While Matthew McConaughey’s kinetic energy makes Rick Sr. believable, some of the other casting choices are questionable, particularly newcomer Richie Merritt, who admits that not only is this his first acting job, it’s his first paying job of any kind – and his inexperience shows.

FYI: Ironically, the grim landscape of abandoned buildings, empty lots and crumbling crack houses was filmed in Cleveland, not Detroit, supposedly because Detroit was no longer decrepit enough.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “White Boy Rick” is a fidgety 5, drug-dusting the American Dream.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.