White Boy Rick is a 2018 film directed by Yann Demange. It’s the true story of the teenager Richard Wershe (Richie Merritt) who was first used by the FBI to infiltrate a network of African American drug dealers in Detroit in the Eighties, and then turned to drug trafficking himself (at only 17 years old). After a few months he was arrested by the same agents who used him some time before. The story has further developments that I don’t want to reveal for anyone who hasn’t seen the film.
Not only is the story interesting: Demange directed his actors perfectly and also did a great job behind the camera, exactly like he did in his previous film, ’71 (2014). Thanks to the good script by Andy Weiss and Logan and Noah Miller, it’s impossible not to become invested in the events and characters presented in the film. And it’s impressive to know that everything really happened!
There are no positive characters in White Boy Rick. Rick, his father (Matthew McConaughey) and his sister (Bel Powley) are all victims of the social trap that was Detroit in the total crisis of the Eighties in which crime was the only way to get out of poverty. Things are even worse for the African-Americans in the poor periphery of the city who, even with their connections with the people in power, do nothing but trade drugs and wage war with each other.
Not that federal agents are better: they use a kid for their own purposes and don’t care about the tragic consequences of the operation. Then once again they put him in the midst of an operation aimed at capturing the corrupt Detroit cops linked to Mayor Coleman Young promising him that he won’t end up in jail and… Rick pays a very high price for trusting them. As of today, Rick has been the longest-serving nonviolent juvenile offender in in the history of Michigan prison system.
In short, the story of Rick Wershe is the story of a criminal, but also of the failure of an entire system, of a society that does nothing to redeem the lives of those who are left behind, lost in an economic system which with its periodic crises leaves behind more and more chunks of the population. And, in addition to this great theme, Demange gave us a captivating film from start to finish. I would recommend watching it to anyone, ciao!