White Boy Rick
|White Boy Rick|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Yann Demange|
|Based on||Richard Wershe Jr.|
|Music by||Max Richter|
|Edited by||Chris Wyatt|
|Distributed by||Sony Pictures Releasing|
|Box office||$26 million|
White Boy Rick is a 2018 American biographical crime drama film directed by Yann Demange and written by Andy Weiss, and Logan and Noah Miller. Based on a true story (but mostly fictional), the film stars Richie Merritt as Richard Wershe Jr., who in the 1980s became the youngest FBI informant ever at the age of 14. The film also stars Matthew McConaughey, Bel Powley, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Brian Tyree Henry, Rory Cochrane, RJ Cyler, Jonathan Majors, Eddie Marsan, Bruce Dern, and Piper Laurie.
The film premiered at the Telluride Film Festival on August 31, 2018 and was released in the United States on September 14, 2018, by Sony Pictures Releasing. It received mixed reviews from critics and grossed over $25 million, $4 million short of its $29 million dollar budget.
Rick Wershe is a struggling single father living in 1980s Detroit during the height of the crack epidemic and war on drugs. His dissatisfied daughter, Dawn, leaves their home, leaving Rick alone with his son, Ricky. Rick manufactures gun parts and sells guns illegally to make ends meet. He involves his son in a sale of silenced AK-47s with local gangster, Johnny Curry. Ricky forms a bond with Johnny's brother, Boo. The two become good friends which earns the favor of Johnny and his crew.
News of Rick's activity attracts attention from the FBI and soon, two agents, Alex Snyder and Frank Byrd, come to his home to question him. They see his son as a potential asset due to his connections with the criminal underworld. They convince Ricky to become an undercover drug informant behind his father's back in exchange for money and immunity for his father. His involvement goes deeper as they ask him to sell drugs to keep up appearances. Ricky is captivated by his extravagant new lifestyle. He eventually gains enough credibility to be considered a "legitimate" drug supplier.
Rick becomes suspicious of his son, and finds thousands of dollars in illicit cash underneath his bed. He confronts Ricky which causes a rift between them. While Ricky is meeting with Dawn at a diner one evening, his grandfather's car is stolen. The two go outside and open fire on the fleeing car, but are arrested. They are bailed out by Ricky's handlers. This arouses suspicion from Johnny.
At a party following a boxing match in Las Vegas, Johnny beats his rival’s friend, Black Ed, within an inch of his life with a bottle of champagne. Afterwards, he orders a drive-by at his rival, Leon Lucas' home, killing one of his young nephews. Ricky learns that the weapons used were the same AK-47s he sold to Johnny at the start of the film. Devastated by his involvement in the murder of a child, he keeps a low profile and mends his relationship with his father. Suspecting Ricky to be an informant, Johnny sends Nugg to his house, who shoots him in the stomach. While at the hospital, Snyder informs Ricky that they have enough to raid all of Johnny's safe houses. She asks Ricky to forget about the shooting in exchange for dropping all charges on his father.
A year later in 1986, Brenda Moore's brother tells Ricky that Brenda had a daughter named Keisha, and that he is the father. Rick and Ricky come over to see the child, who wins over the affection of both of them. Later on, they find Dawn at a drug house and forcibly take her home to detox. She eventually makes a full recovery after several days.
In 1987, Ricky goes back to selling crack and assumes the role that Johnny left behind, even going so far as having sex with his wife, Cathy. Rick discovers he has earned more than enough money to make his dad's dream of opening up a video store come true. FBI agents arrest Ricky and he is held on drug possession with intent to distribute which could land him a potential life sentence. Ricky's former handlers deny their relationship with Ricky, but promise they will try to get his sentence reduced if he cooperates on one last bust. Ricky has Cathy help him out with a large shipment of drugs, the FBI raid the deal, and arrest everyone involved. At his court hearing, Ricky is found guilty and is sentenced to life in prison. Rick confronts the two agents about their deal but they feign ignorance.
After another year, Dawn, Rick, and Keisha visit Ricky in prison. Rick tries to give his son hope but Ricky laments that his life is over. Rick tears up and apologizes for not being able to give him an easy life like he wanted.
The credits reveal that Ricky was imprisoned for over 30 years, holding the record for the longest prison term for a non-violent offender in the state of Michigan. He was finally released on parole in 2017. His father passed away in 2014. His daughter, Keisha, is now happily married with two sons. A voice recording of the real Ricky Wershe Jr. plays in the background, saying that nobody thought he should really be in prison, but that he was feeling happy and hopeful.
- Matthew McConaughey as Richard Wershe Sr.
- Richie Merritt as Richard Wershe Jr.
- Bel Powley as Dawn Wershe
- Jennifer Jason Leigh as FBI Agent Alex Snyder
- Brian Tyree Henry as Detroit PD Vice Detective Mel “Roach” Jackson
- Rory Cochrane as FBI Agent Frank Byrd
- RJ Cyler as Rudell "Boo" Curry
- Jonathan Majors as Johnny "Lil Man" Curry
- Nickoli Link as "Lil Tic" Curry Gang
- Eddie Marsan as Art Derrick
- Taylour Paige as Cathy Volsan-Curry
- Bruce Dern as Grandpa Roman "Ray" Wershe
- Piper Laurie as Grandma Verna Wershe
- YG as Leo "Big Man" Curry
- Danny Brown as Edward "Black Ed" Hanserd
- IshDARR as Steven "Freaky Steve” Roussell
- Kyanna Simone Simpson as Brenda Moore
- Kwon Haynes as Edwin "Nug" Crutcher
In February 2015, Studio 8 acquired a spec script by Logan Miller and Noah Miller, titled White Boy Rick. The script was produced independently of "Trials of White Boy Rick" writer Evan Hughes, who has stated on Twitter that "The film used my work without pay nor credit."
In November 2016, Matthew McConaughey joined the cast of the film, with Yann Demange directing the film, Darren Aronofsky, Scott Franklin and John Lesher produced the film under their Protozoa Pictures and LBI Entertainment banners, respectively. In January 2017, Bruce Dern and Jennifer Jason Leigh joined the cast of the film. In February 2017, Bel Powley and Brian Tyree Henry joined the cast of the film. In March 2017, Richie Merritt, Jonathan Majors, YG, Taylour Paige, Piper Laurie and RJ Cyler joined the cast of the film.
Principal photography began on March 14, 2017.[failed verification] Following audience testing, in which the film scored quite high—in the 90s—director Yann Demange was given the go-ahead to shoot extra scenes.
The film was originally scheduled to be released on January 12, 2018, but was pushed back two weeks from its original release date of January 12, 2018, to January 26, 2018, and was pushed back again from January 26, 2018, to August 17, 2018, after successful test screenings. In April 2018 it was pushed back again from August 17, 2018, to September 14, 2018. It had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival on August 31, 2018. It was also screened at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival on September 7, 2018.
In the United States and Canada, White Boy Rick was released alongside The Predator, A Simple Favor and Unbroken: Path to Redemption, and was projected to gross $5–9 million from 2,504 theaters in its opening weekend. It ended up debuting to $8.8 million, finishing fourth behind The Predator, The Nun and A Simple Favor. It dropped 43% in its second weekend to $5 million, finishing sixth.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 59% based on 146 reviews, with an average rating of 6/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Solid work from the cast - particularly a scene-stealing Matthew McConaughey - helps White Boy Rick make up for a number of missed opportunities in the script." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 59 out of 100, based on 35 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported filmgoers gave it a 64% positive score and a 44% "definite recommend".
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