Most people won't have heard of writer/director James Toback. Despite arthouse movies like "Two Girls And A Guy" and an Oscar nomination for his script to the Warren Beatty-starrer "Bugsy", Toback is hardly a marquee name.
Nonetheless, his edgy material entices good actors and so is the case with "Black And White". Shot like a documentary and mainly improvised, it charts a variety of New Yorkers and their attitudes towards black culture - incorporating a murder plot and a host of celebrity cameos.
Shields plays a film maker who follows a group of white, middle-class teenagers trying to find out why they emulate black people. Downey Jr is Shields' husband, a gay man who hits on every guy he meets - and that includes Mike Tyson. Yes, that Mike Tyson. Meanwhile, Power (a real-life member of Wu-Tang Clan) is Rich - a rapper and criminal who has to decide what to do after his best friend threatens to turn him in.
Bear in mind, this is only half of the plotlines. And unfortunately, this is the film's undoing. Letting the actors make up their dialogue is one thing, but trying to follow so many characters means the movie is a complete mess, and unsure of what it trying to say or be.
The performances are universally good - particularly from the non-actors. Tyson's scenes especially are the most effective in the entire film.
But, while Toback certainly makes a game effort to study the infiltration of hip-hop into the mainstream, his inability to choose what ground to cover ultimately results in an episodic hotch-potch, which, despite a high curiosity factor, ends up an unfulfilling journey.