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Black and White (15)



Review by: Graeme Kay | Rating: One

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 of appeals.

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.

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