As a self-described tough grader of films, I’m often asked what judging criteria I use to affix letter grades to movies?.There is no easy answer to this question. The best way to describe how I rate movies is to say that I measure how much a film emotionally connects with me from the time I sit down in the theater chair until the time I get up and leave at the end. Did the movie’s suspense make me clutch the armrest? Was the movie’s journey a gut-punch from a tragic true-life event? Am I left inspired or awestruck by the humanity of a single person with heart? Did a dramedy deliver both a serious topic and timely laughs of relief? A movie’s storyline or angle must make me think or react. Otherwise it’s just comes across like news.
Great films start with a great script. From a script’s outstanding story can potentially come wonderful performances. Both the script and exquisite performances are prerequisites to an “A” or “A+” on my scorecard. Separating a good film from a great one is easier than separating a poor movie from one that’s horrible. The most frustrating films are the ones that leave me thinking “So what?”
“White Boy Rick” is a film that left me wondering why someone thought this true story about a 14-year old boy from Detroit back in the 1980s deserved to make it to the big-screen. Yes, the boy—Richard “White Boy Rick” Wershe Jr. (Richie Merritt)—flipped into a FBI informant, but young Rick’s drug-dealing persona unsurprisingly results in his own downfall and life sentence in prison.
The always watchable Matthew McConaughey portrays Richard Sr., a cagey gun-dealing father trying to raise drug-addicted daughter Dawn (Bel Powley) and his gang-member son “White Boy Rick” while towing the line of lawlessness himself. Abandoned by their mother, the younger hustler and teenage father Rick joins his father to deal drugs to the streets of Motown in hopes of finding a better life.
This is the type of film that neither opened my eyes nor inspired me to pull for a character in the end. Rather, it left me numb to the ideals and behavior by the Wershe family. They’re all criminals in a gun-trafficking and drug-dealing crime world. In the end, the cries of injustice within the justice system pales in comparison to the poor choices made by bad people.
Lacking surprise, plot twists and emotional attachment to the Wershe family, “White Boy Rick” settles into the crime story told in a methodical news manner void of any investment in a character’s outcome.
“White Boy Rick” is rated R with a running time of 1 hour and 51 minutes.