So, when a 9 year old girl was found near the beach, raped and murdered, the white aristocracy quickly placed the blame on 20-something Fun Festival worker, Max Stuart, played well by Australian native David Ngoombujarra. A relatively quick trial convicted him and he was headed for a hanging.
What's this movie really about? It is about a young lawyer trying to find justice at a very high personal cost. It is about arrogant politicians trying to control the situation to their preferred outcome. It is about the power of the newspaper and their reporters, digging to try to find the true story and to rally the people with bold headlines.
Robert Carlyle is the young, inexperienced lawyer David O'Sullivan, assigned to defend Max without funds to do so properly. His nemesis is Roderic Chamberlain (Charles Dance) who is in with the political machine and slated, he hoped, for a Chief Justice promotion.
SPOILERS. David never was successful in the courts of law. Not that he didn't try, but the deck was always stacked against him. The whole conviction was based on a confession that Max supposedly gave, but a linguistics expert testified later that he could not possibly have expressed himself in the way it was written. Max was saved from hanging by the Prime Minister, for political reasons, tired of the ruckus the people were making. Max served 14 years and, to this day (much like OJ Simpson) hopes to find the real killer. That is not to imply at all that Max is really guilty, but he served his time and is now a free man. The DVD has an interesting 6-minute interview with Max, taped in 2002.