There’s plenty of judgment to be passed on the Wershe family of Detroit, and director Yann Demange (’71) doesn’t sugarcoat their questionable choices, but more than anything, this is the fact-based story of a desperately poor family striving to stay together despite the circumstances. Rick Sr. (Matthew McConaughey) is a licensed gun dealer who operates mostly outside the law, selling weapons to drug dealers; his 14-year-old son Ricky (Richie Merritt) assists, then eventually becomes an FBI undercover informant on local drug operations. The film becomes a rumbling crime biopic with touches of dark humor, also addressing the disparity between how Ricky is likely to be treated by the law if he’s caught and how his African-American colleagues tend to be treated. McConaughey gives one of his best performances, imbuing the rough-hewn patriarch with vulnerability and regret, while Merritt, a Baltimore teen with no prior professional acting experience, is quite good in a role with its own unusual complexities. There turns out to be a “message,” but it’s not heavy-handed. While many of this family’s problems are of their own making, the system sure doesn’t help.
Director: Yann Demange
Producer: John Lesher, Julie Yorn, Scott Franklin, Darren Aronofsky, Georgia Kacandes, Matthew Krul, Ari Handel, Michael Weiss, Christopher Mallick, Logan Miller and Noah Miller
Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Richie Merritt, Bel Powley, Jennifer Leigh, Brian Henry, Rory Cochrane, RJ Cyler, Jonathan Majors, Eddie Marsan, Taylour Paige, Bruce Dern, Piper Laurie, Raekwon Haynes, Ishmael "Ishdarr" Ali, James Howard, YG, Danny Brown, Kyanna Simone Simpson, Morerice Thornton, Isaiah Ali, E'Xavion Walker, Lawrence Adimora, Alan Jones, Art Terry, Santos Velasquez, Heidi Sulzman, LaShawn Little, Ronald Williams Jr., Anthony Woods and James Shinkle