White Boy Rick emphasizes America’s broken justice system

Allie Boulier

By Allie Boulier

When I think of the 1980’s, scrunchies, big hair, cool music, and love stories starring Molly Ringwald come to mind; however, White Boy Rick (2018) shows a darker counterpart to the decade we so often associate with neon clothes and Madonna.

Based on a true story, White Boy Rick opens in Detroit and spans across the mid-to-late ’80s, focusing on the Wershe family. Richard Wershe Jr., aka “White Boy Rick,” starts out the film as a 14 year old surrounded by the threats of Detroit: gangs, guns, and drugs.

Rick is quickly pulled into the life of crime when the FBI blackmails him at 15. Claiming they would expose and arrest his father, Richard Wershe Sr., (Matthew McConaughey) for selling illegal guns and silencers, Rick is forced to become the youngest federal informant in American history.

Rick buys and sells cocaine for the FBI until he refuses to continue to assist the government and begins selling for profit. This goes on until he is arrested at 17 for the possession of more than eight kilos of cocaine with intent to distribute.

Throughout White Boy Rick, the theme of family loyalty bleeds through as Richard Wershe Sr., despite all of his faults and crimes, struggles to protect his son from the dangers of selling drugs and his daughter from the dangers of using them. The alliances and bonds we see built so strongly, provide a light-hearted contrast to the shady interactions seen on the streets of Detroit.

I also appreciated the costume choices for the characters: large, fur jackets and gigantic gold necklaces paired with sneakers from the ’80s. And the song “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer, although not what I would anticipate for a movie about gangsters and hustlers, paired perfectly with the film, especially in the roller rink scene.

However, of course, while I do appreciate Rick’s story, it’s impossible for me to rave about it. The simple fact is, the same story has been repeated a million times with people of color all over America, and yet nothing is said or done about it. But when a white boy is arrested on drug charges and faces serious consequences, it becomes a national story. What exactly makes White Boy Rick an interesting movie for people to see? Yes, his young age is alluring, but I feel confident the movie would not exist if his skin was a different color.