Compared to his blisteringly intense, Belfast-set debut ’71, which followed a British soldier separated from his unit during a riot at the height of the Troubles, Yann Demange’s sophomore effort might end up feeling disappointingly straightforward. Not an adjective you’d readily associate with a fascinating true-crime story which chronicles how the FBI recruited their youngest informant, 14-year old Richard Wershe Jr. Nevertheless, the film does undeniably let itself down as the runtime progresses, hampered by a narrative which could have been bulked up a bit and some serious pacing issues. White Boy Rick could have reached for something more impactful considering the material and will leave some audience members hungry for more. There are some high points in this stranger-than-fiction tale, chiefly the way Demange manages to accurately capture the spirit of the 1980s, as well as working-class Detroit, and the performances are excellent across the board. Especially noteworthy are on-screen siblings played by newcomer Richie Merritt and Bel Powley; the latter steals a fair few scenes as the wide-eyed, drugged-up Dawn, and Richie Merritt more than holds his own amongst a cast of A-listers that include Matthew McConaughey, Bruce Dern and Eddie Marsan. Both deserved a more ambitious vehicle, a film that went beyond being simply serviceable.
White Boy Rick | Directed by Yann Demange (US, 2018), with Matthew McConaughey, Richie Merritt, Bel Powley, Jennifer Jason Leigh. Starts March 7.
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