Richard Wershe Jr., a fourteen year old son of a low-level gun seller, follows in his dad’s footsteps before moving onto being a police informant and cocaine dealer. His exploits led to him becoming the youngest nonviolent drug offender in prison, having received a life sentence.
An Unfocused Script;
Should Have Accomplished Much More;
Some Bright Spots Shine Through.
Watch in Theater Immediately
Pickup at Redbox Upon Release
**Stream on Netflix/Watch on Cable**
Don’t Waste Your Time
I didn’t go into this with very lofty expectations, but I do think it should have been more, considering the story of was based on. The script tries to do too much, without giving anything the focus it would take to succeed. The film is at it’s best when it is a small-scale family drama, but falls apart when things go wider. Newcomer Richie Merritt does a solid job in the title role, but never managed to hook me into believing he could have become what he did. His vulnerability, however, really comes through at some crucial points, as a kid in terrible circumstances being treated like an adult and being lost between both worlds. Wisely, neither the script nor Merritt go for outright sympathy, but overall I just didn’t find him capable of carrying the weight here. Helping out quote a bit in that regard is the always reliable Matthew McConaughey as Richard Sr. He does a great job of portraying a father of a family in shambles, trying to keep his questionable moral compass pointing north in trying times. He steals the scenes that he is in and has two of the best moments in the whole film. I really liked the production design and the attention to detail in recreating the world of 1980s Detroit, having grown up in the area. There is also some good cinematography on display, balancing the muted color palette with the eerie glow of street lights, shining down rays of hope on a dark world. There are definitely things to admire, but overall the missed opportunities are too high. A better script and twenty more minutes to develop the plot threads thrown around would have done wonders. It could have truly addressed some of the films hidden larger points, like mandatory minimum sentences, non violent drug offenses, police corruption, treatment of informants and youth in the system. I wanted to see the movie be as good at addressing those issues as it was at addressing family issues.