Robert Carlyle brings the Australian legal system to its knees in Black And White, a solid courtroom drama in which nothing is as clear-cut as the title suggests. Dim-witted Aboriginal fairground worker Max Stuart (David Ngoombujarra) has been accused of raping and murdering a nine-year-old girl in 50s Oz. Enter crusading Irish-Australian lawyer David O'Sullivan (Carlyle), who's convinced that Max has been stitched up and is determined to save him from the gallows.
Squaring up against this young upstart is pompous prosecutor Roderic Chamberlain QC (Charles Dance, in lip-curling toff mode), whose superior air, keen intelligence and powdered wig makes him a fearsome adversary for Carlyle's small-fry solicitor. But that's not all: Carlyle also has small-town prejudice to overcome.
Based on a true story, this Antipodean drama plays its 'little man against the system' premise by the numbers, sketching out the class dynamics of Carlyle and Dance's duel without ever rocking the boat too much.
"CARICATURING THE MEDIA BARON"
Halfway through, it manages to pull off a welcome change of gear as a certain young newspaper proprietor named Rupert Murdoch (Ben Mendelsohn) enters the fray and decides to turn the Stuart case into headline news. Caricaturing the media baron and his hold over the Australian population, Black And White looks like it's about to add an extra layer of meaning to its title - by taking pot-shots at the power of the press.
Except it never really comes to anything. Carlyle jumps about like an over-excited schoolboy, Dance perfects his sneering-down-the-nose routine, and fall guy Ngoombujarra struggles through a thankless role as the film's chief patsy. It's To Kill A Mockingbird down under - solid and dependable, but hardly worth getting your didgeridoo in a twist over.