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Non-Review Review: White Boy Rick

White Boy Rick struggles to articulate what it is actually saying.

The basic premise of White Boy Rick is quite clear from the outset. The film is set in Detroit. Barring a coda, the bulk of the action unfolds in the four years following on from 1984, during Ronald Reagan’s second term. Although the President himself is not directly discussed in the context of the narrative, there is an early conversation in which two agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and one member of the Detroit Police Department ruminate upon Nancy Reagan’s famous “just say no” appeal.

Ricked off.

White Boy Rick is an earnest and well-intentioned movie exploring the consequences of the so-called “War on Drugs” in eighties America, and the manner in which that campaign was both fruitless in terms of its nominal objectives and actively harmful to the communities in which it unfolded. White Boy Rick attempts to position itself as a tragedy about a young man – the eponymous character’s age is something of a recurring battle cry – who happens to get wrapped up in something much bigger than his own circumstances.

Unfortunately, White Boy Rick struggles to construct a strong and engaging narrative around this central thesis statement, repeatedly stumbling in trying to graft the character’s arc and decisions to the broader social commentary that it wants to make. The result is a deeply frustrating film that squanders potentially interesting subject matter.

Daddy’s home.

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My 12 for ’14: ’71 and Claustrophobic Thrills…

With 2014 coming to a close, we’re counting down our top twelve films of the year. Check back daily for the latest featured film.

A large part of what makes ’71 so effective is the fact that is as interested in constructing a claustrophobic thriller as it is in making a clear political statement. Although it is set in Belfast in 1971, the movie has more in common with The Raid or Dredd than it does to Shadow Dancer. The movie is essentially a survival horror about a British soldier separated from his regiment, struggling to survive in hostile territory. There is a universality to the story, creating a sense that it could just as easily have been set in Basra a couple of years ago as Belfast several decades back.

’71 moves with an incredible and visceral energy, building up momentum across its relatively lean hundred-minute runtime as it presents a fugitive being chased through hostile territory by both sides locked in a bloody and bitter generational feud. Of course, ’71 is inherently political – as any movie set in any equivalent environment must be. ’71 eschews divisions between Republicans and Loyalists – between members of the Irish Republican Army and the various arms of British authority operating in the city.

71b Continue reading