Review by: Graeme Kay | Rating:
FORMULAIC courtroom drama based on a ground breaking murder trial
of an Australian aborigine in 1950s Australia.
When a nine-year-old girl is murdered in the outback town of
Ceduna (near Adelaide), a group of less-than-PC PCs decide to
fit up an aboriginal outsider, Max Stuart (David Ngoombujarra),
for the crime.
They literally terrify him into making a confession and it seems
that for him it's the end of the line.
Luckily, though, a firey anti-establishment lawyer, David O'Sullivan
(Robert Carlyle), is assigned to defend Max, and he quickly decides
that Max's story is true - he has been royally stitched up.
At first it seems that Max will get off because he has witnesses
placing him elsewhere at the time that the child was murdered.
However, his hopes of being proved innocent are badly shaken
when the police, in the first of several dodgy moves, revise their
estimate of the time of victim's death.
Consequently, Max is found guilty and sentenced to hang.
Firmly believing in his client's innocence, O'Sullivan decides
to take on the might of the legal establishment through a series
It is this series of appeals, and O'Sullivan's quest to find
a witness who can vouch for his client, that take up the bulk
of the film.
Worthy though the subject matter is, the film falls flat. Partly
because there is a noticeable lack of dramatic tension, but principally
because the characters are so shallowly drawn that they become
mere cyphers; all the white male establishment figures are bigoted,
racist, smug, condescending and more concerned with furthering
their careers than they are with pursuing justice, while each
and every one of the anti-establishment crew (including a young
version of Rupert Murdoch - whose Adelaide News eventually took
up and championed Max's case) is brimming over with integrity
and an unquenchable thirst for truth and legal reform.
In short, while the film has a ring of truth to it, it still
somehow fails to convince.
Close but no cigar.