White Boy Rick
Richie Merritt is Rick Wershe Jr. who lives with his dead beat father, Richard (Matthew McConaughey) who sells illegal firearms and his junkie sister. Set in 1984 broken down Detroit, Rick gained the nickname “White Boy” from the crowd he began to hang with. Upon gaining the trust of a local drug kingpin, Rick was tasked by the FBI to go undercover to bring down the men in charge. With the promise of a better life for his family, Rick, only 15 becomes a major player in this drug-trafficking ring.
When his work with the FBI comes to a close after a violent incident, White Boy Rick must do what is best for his family. With his father’s blessing, he returns to the drug-trafficking ring and is eventually sentenced to life in prison. Based on a true story, this family of degenerates is hard to get behind. When billed as the protagonist, the audience must feel an emotional connection to the characters. It is hard to connect to these foolish, short-sighted individuals. McConaughey is the saving grace here, perfect as the father who realizes he has been unable to provide for his children, yet still makes mistakes as their sole caregiver.
The interesting part of Rick’s story is that he worked with the FBI, who led him down a dangerous path. It is unfortunate that story is only part of the film. The rest centers on Rick, his continued success and subsequent downfall as a dealer. Outside of McConaughey on screen, the story feels stale. In 100 years of Hollywood, this story has been fictionalized dozens of times. The only difference is that this is a true story. Not all true stories are interesting.
A Simple Favor
Director Paul Fieg (“The Heat”, “Bridesmaids”) has taken a revenge thriller into a semi-suspenseful dark comedy that plays half theatrical movie and half Hallmark Channel movie. Stephanie Smothers (Anna Kendrick) is a workhorse of a mom who befriends Emily Nelson (Blake Lively), a rich yet spontaneous lady who never seems to play by the rules “normal” moms should.
Kendrick, playing her typical persona, has become enamored with Emily. They quickly form a bond, one that is powerful especially considering their differences. Emily disappears, and now Smothers has become entrenched in her life — not only because she is searching for her best friend, but also watching her child and spending too much time with her husband. It is this relationship the kept me intrigued for the first third of “A Simple Favor.”
Unfortunately, beyond their chemistry and craftsmanship as actresses, there is not much here. 2014’s “Gone Girl” was dark, ominous and plays very much like “A Simple Favor,” only better. Fieg, was aiming for a light hearted approach to a dark situation. Once Smothers begins to peel back the layers to Emily’s disappearance, the movie begins to meander. This meandering feels like a made-for-television special all culminating into an over the top, unbearable ending that everyone should see coming. Kendrick and Lively (who did not get enough screen time) are amazing here, too bad the script ultimately leaves them spinning their wheels in a movie going nowhere interesting.