Tag Archives: 80s

White Boy Rick

23 Sep

‘White Boy Rick’: Life of overachieving teen can’t sustain its high in crack-dealing 1980s

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There’s a whole lot of bristle and edge to “White Boy Rick,” the true-life chronicle of Rick Wershe, a plucky street criminal who made front page news as a drug dealer and gun runner in crack-addicted Detroit. Sure, there were lots of other kingpins working the street during the desperate ’80s, but Rick was barely 16 and – as the film has it – the only white kid trying to cut in. Rick was also an on-and-off again informant for the FBI, a move that ultimately proves less favorable than it did for local white guy Whitey Bulger.

If you were hoping “White Boy Rick” might be a Horatio Alger story propelled with shotgun shells like “Scarface,” it’s not. It’s more a tale of desperation, poor choices and swimming against the current and, on a social level, an American tragedy, and there’s a lot you want to like: the topographical audacity, trademark disco funk music, gritty street lingo and a wickedly impressive cast. But somehow “White Boy Rick” doesn’t know how to deliver, or maybe it’s just that hard to make a true-life criminal be sympathetic or compelling onscreen. Remember how highly anticipated “Black Mass” was, and how it fell short? Rick doesn’t kill anyone here – not directly, anyway, though he does unload a gunny sack of AK-47s to a posse of trigger-happy gangbangers and later distributes heroin and crack. So there’s that.

What “White Boy Rick” needs is a fix of character development and motivation. We have little idea why Rick grabs that satchel of guns from his dad initially and saunters into a kingpin’s operation, inconspicuous as an elephant at a yoga retreat. It’s a perfectly orchestrated and tense scene, but without a framework it wanes quickly thereafter – as does much of the film, as it achieves crescendo after crescendo only to return to flatness. It’s no fault of new face Richie Merritt, who’s convincing enough as the titular man-boy full of resolve and the capacity to pull the trigger, but a high reluctance to shoot first and think later. Strangely or perhaps poetically, Rick flows seamlessly from white to black. If you could imagine Gary Oldman’s dreaded and grilled gangster in “True Romance” shot in the rump with a tranquilizer, you’d have the right approximation: far less cartoonish, but with the right amount of cred. Continue reading

Everybody Wants Some!!

15 Apr
The bad boys of Everybody Wants Some have more than baseball on their minds

 

If there’s one thing about Richard Linklater, it’s that he’s true to his Austin, Texas roots — he’s a keep-Austin-weird independent. He served notice with Slacker back in 1991, and while that movie looked to be a one-hit Sundance wonder, Linklater came back with the uproarious Dazed and Confused, which gave the world Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck, and Before Sunrise, the latter spawning two more chapters with the same actors. More recently, he delivered the wildly acclaimed dissertation on growing up, Boyhood, which was filmed over the course of 12 years.

And that brings us to what’s tagged as a spiritual sequel to  Dazed and Confused, Everybody Wants Some. While that connection may seem a stretch given the fact that Linklater’s latest centers on a collegiate frat house of baseball players at a fictitious Texas university in the 1980s, in temperament and scope and a healthy dose of humorous, cutting snark, Everybodyis right in the strike zone.  Continue reading