The timeline is thus: Matthew McConaughey broke out in A Time to Kill. Then he became a rom-com king, starred in the legendarily awful Tiptoes, turned into a self-parody, and then it was the McConaissance, in which he achieved his final form as the surprisingly versatile actor with the distinctive voice A Time to Kill signaled he could be. We’re now well into the “Matthew McConaughey is a good actor” phase, so it’s not surprising that he looks great in the trailer for White Boy Rick. What is kind of surprising is how good the movie around him looks, too.
White Boy Rick is based on a true story—because if it’s not a superhero, sequel, reboot, or remake, then it’s based on a true story—about a teenager in Detroit in the 1980s who becomes a drug kingpin and turns informant. The kid, Rick Jr., is played by newcomer Richie Merritt, and Matthew McConaughey stars as his dad, Rick Sr. It’s a stacked cast all around, including Bel Powley, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Eddie Marsan, Bruce Dern, and Piper Laurie. With that cast, you would think White Boy Rick would be positioned in a prime, award-friendly slot, but it’s slated for a mid-September release. That’s a little surprising, because White Boy Rick looks good.
I’m getting a little of an American Hustle/American Gangster vibe, which is partly the setting but also because of the verve represented in the trailer. We LOVE stories about hustlers and con artists, and White Boy Rick looks like it’s steeped in hustler tea. Once upon a time this would have been an easy post-summer sleeper, but now, with audiences declining, who knows? It certainly looks good, and I’m still surprised it’s not getting a more obvious award-baity release date because Matthew McConaughey is in full McConaissance mode. Plus, they have a media-friendly Hollywood discovery story with Richie Merritt. The narrative writes itself! White Boy Rick looks like it should be a contender, but it’s being released like they’re hoping for post-summer dregs (September is not a good box office month). It will be interesting to see how this one plays out.
PS: Guess who else is in this movie? Brian Tyree Henry. I’m telling you, he is having a YEAR.