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White Boy Rick

Based on a true story and well acted by its two leads, you can't help but feel that WHITE BOY RICK could have been a much better film.

We meet Richard Sr (Matthew McConaughey) a low life dreamer who talks big about a better life for his two children, but spends his afternoons making illegal silencers for AK-47s to sell in the back alleys of 1980's Detroit.

His son Ricky is 15 going on 30, dripping with profanity and a sense of desperation that makes him a hell of a salesman.

Ricky slips into a deadly black gang, the sole white face in every dangerous room he enters. The people that surround him soon truly do become more of a family than he's ever had in his life.

Ricky is played in a terrific performance by first time actor Richie Merritt. You feel for him as he slowly realizes what a loser his Dad is and how few options he truly has in front of him.

When a weapons deal goes south, Ricky is swept up in a raid and FBI agents Snyder (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Jackson (Brian Tyree Henry) turn him into a deeply rooted informant.

I'll leave the rest of the story for you to discover, but only true stories can be this twisted.

Detroit has never looked worse, like some drug crippled third-world dump in its last days. It was actually filmed in Cleveland, which almost makes me feel sorry for Browns fans again, but I digress.....

Father/Son relationships rarely come more dependent and dysfunctional than Ricky Sr and Jr. As Ricky's star rises in the criminal underworld, his father slips more into jealousy than concern. It's disturbing to watch.

Bruce Dern is great as Ricky's grandfather, living across the street and witnessing much of the drama from his porch with a cold beer in hand.

Ricky's sister Dawn (Bel Powley, strong) drips sadness in her desire to escape this life, but finds that separation at the end of a needle. Her story is harrowing as well.

The biggest problem with the film is a middle section that wanders not only in plotting, but in tone, sometimes so dramatically that you feel like chunks of the movie are missing.

McConaughey and Merritt's final scene together nearly makes up for the middle. McConaughey's Richard Sr lets his motivational bullshit life philosophy down just long enough to offer a peek at the scared, devastated man behind the curtain, and its a hell of a moment in a conclusion filled with them.

Stay tune through the credits for current updates on the characters and vocal recordings of the real Ricky Jr, which pack some real punch.

Director Yann Demange feels over his head. Many scenes go nowhere, while major turning points arrive with little fanfare. It's a shame he couldn't wrangle more of the loose pieces of the story into something wound as tightly as Ricky.

That would have been something to watch, and could have been the film that McConaughey and Merritt deserve to surround them.


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