Set in 1980s Detroit at the height of the crack epidemic and the War on Drugs, the film White Boy Rick is based on the true story of a blue-collar father and his teenage son, Rick Wershe Jr., who became an undercover police informant and later a drug dealer before he was abandoned by his handlers and sentenced to life in prison.
The father, played by Matthew McConaughey, is a lovable loser-type trying to do the best he can for his kids. It just so happens that manufacturing silencers in his basement and selling weapons to drug dealers is his preferred method of doing so.
It’s this illicit activity that eventually leads to Rick’s involvement with the FBI. After observing him hanging around a local drug kingpin (Jonathan Majors), two FBI agents (Jennifer Jason Leigh and Rory Cochrane) eventually convince Rick to act as an informant in order to save his dad from going to prison.
Doing “controlled buys” leads to Rick selling drugs under the watch of the two FBI agents. Unknowingly, he impinges on the territory of the aforementioned drug kingpin. This is what ultimately leads to him getting shot. The scene in which he gets shot ends with Rick lying on his kitchen floor struggling to breathe. It then cuts to the hospital where he is undergoing emergency surgery to repair the bullet wound. It can only be assumed that this is when he had ileostomy (or colostomy) surgery. There’s no mention of it while he’s recovering in the hospital.
The first time we see an ostomy pouch is when Rick gets out of the car on his arrival home from the hospital. Most people wouldn’t notice but to an ostomate, it’s instantly recognizable — the very bottom of the pouch is hanging below his shirt. Aided by his father, Rick slowly makes it into the house.
Another scene begins with the liquid contents of an ostomy pouch spilling out into the toilet. The camera then pans back to show Rick as the one who’s kneeling next to the toilet. After he empties, he stands up and slowly peels the pouch off. Underneath is a dark red area, but with no distinguishable stoma. He then turns to his dad and asks for another bag. The dad responds that he should rinse it out and use it again because the bags are expensive.
Of course, nobody typically changes an ostomy pouch every time it’s emptied, but perhaps it was poetic license to make a point about their money situation. Also, they are costly medical supplies. There's no more mention of the ostomy until quite later in the movie when Rick gets into an argument with his dad. His father says that they’re doing just fine as a family and Rick replies “Oh really?? My sister’s a drug addict and I sh*t in a bag!” That’s the last we hear of it.
Overall, the movie did a fair job in its presentation of ostomies. There were some inaccuracies, but it will definitely raise awareness and change what the word “ostomy” conjures up in the mind of anyone who sees it. It also gives a glimpse into something the vast majority of people would otherwise never see. It doesn’t present an ostomy as gross or dirty, but it doesn’t present it as pleasant either.
For those wondering, the movie is rated R and contains rampant profanity and violence, drug use, guns, and a very short instance of nudity. You can read more about the true story of Richard Wershe, Jr. and find out how the story ends by checking out this article. [Spoiler Alert]
Watch the official trailer for White Boy Rick in theaters now. Warning: The trailer includes profanity and depicts a young teenager involved with drugs and guns.
White Boy Rick is available on Prime Video.