Plot: Richard Wersche, Jr. was arrested in 1987 and given a life sentence, but before he was taken off the streets, he would find himself turned into a larger than life legend known as White Boy Rick. The stories about Rick’s adventures in the booming Detroit drug trade are numerous and all over the map, but how much of it is true and how much is folklore run wild? In White Boy, the real White Boy Rick himself tells his story and is joined by interviews with a wealth of people that experienced 80s Detroit first hand, from reporters to police officers to drug dealers to hired killers, all of whom crossed paths with Wersche at some point.
Entertainment Value: The legend of White Boy Rick is filled with wild stories, but the truth might be even wilder, as he claims he was recruited as a teenager by the FBI to infiltrate the Detroit drug underworld. In this documentary, we’re taken on an in depth tour of 80s Detroit and the incredible environment of corruption, open drug traders, and ruthless gangs. As you can imagine, the police struggled to maintain even basic order at times, so pushing back such a thriving drug trade was impossible, especially when so many officers, officials, and politicians were on the take. The idea of a fourteen white kid rising through the ranks in this atmosphere seems insane, but Rick did just that and was in the inner circle at the top. His story is a wild one, even when the local legends are filtered out, so being able to hear about it from those involved is quite interesting and reveals so much about the Detroit drug scene of the time.
White Boy is an impressive collection of first hand accounts, with Rick himself at the center and a plethora of perspectives on the Detroit drug world, from those who lived and worked within that realm. There’s bound to be some bravado from these kind of big personalities, but the interviews feel sincere and the documentary comes off as quite authentic, trying to separate the legend from the reality, to illustrate how unfair Rick’s eventual punishment would be. The movie is sympathetic to Rick’s situation, but doesn’t push too hard and is content to allow the facts to speak on his behalf, then let us decide for ourselves. The piece is well crafted and has insightful, candid interviews throughout, giving us the kind of depth about not just Rick, but the Detroit scene on the whole, that you want from this kind of picture. This isn’t about hype or street legends, but the real life, the nuts and bolts of what 80s Detroit was like, the dangers and temptations that lurked in that world. I’d recommend this to anyone who appreciates documentaries, true crime stories, or saw White Boy Rick and wanted the real scoop, as White Boy is well made and never fails to keep you hooked.