Black And White (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner05/01/2004

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 99 mins

Lahiff’s drama is best filed under “Worthy But Dull” - it starts well but tails off badly into a series of choppy, disconnected scenes. Plus, it’s hard to like a film that tries to make a hero out of Rupert Murdoch.

As far as courtroom dramas are concerned, it probably isn’t the most fortunate of weeks for Black and White to open, given that the star-powered Runaway Jury is set to open a week later. Craig Lahiff’s drama is well-acted and tells a historically interesting story, but ultimately feels more like a TV drama and is let down by a poor second half.

Set in 1959, the film stars Robert Carlyle as David O’Sullivan, a young, ambitious but inexperienced lawyer in Adelaide. He and his legal partner Helen Devaney (Kerry Fox) are given the legal aid case of an Aborigine named Max Stuart (David Ngoombujarra), who is accused of raping and murdering a nine year old girl.

Framed By Local Authorities

O’Sullivan comes to believe that Stuart has been framed by local authorities interested in a speedy conviction and decides to take a stand. In doing so, he clashes with Roderic Chamberlain (Charles Dance), South Australia’s powerful and equally ambitious Crown Prosecutor and the case begins to take on a ‘David and Goliath’ quality.

However, O’Sullivan receives help from a source that is bound to raise a few mutterings in the audience – a young (and, er, ambitious) newspaper man named Rupert Murdoch (Ben Mendolsohn) is keen to garner publicity for his tabloid, the Australian News and he rallies public opinion behind O’Sullivan’s cause. (The case is eventually responsible for the setting up of a public defence fund).

Black and White starts well, largely thanks to a winning, genuinely moving performance from Ngoombujarra and reliable work from both Carlyle and Fox. Dance is good too – he has honed his Hissable Villain routine to perfection over the years.

Film Loses Its Way

However, the film begins to drag about halfway through and then gets practically lost in a series of choppy, seemingly disconnected scenes that are a result of the lengthy appeals process - there are times when it looks as if entire scenes are actually missing and it lacks the emotional climax it desperately needs.

The film also suffers from a distinct ‘small screen’ quality and would undoubtedly play better as a TV drama. It’s also a bit of a stretch to really get behind a film that asks you to root for Rupert Murdoch as its hero, true story or no true story (though, to be fair, Mendolsohn isn’t bad).

In short, Black and White is mostly watchable and well-acted but neither as engaging nor as exciting as it needs to be.

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Content updated: 23/10/2017 08:55

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