In Search of Texas Justice
In the 1940s a black man called Dennis Brandley (Rufus Crawford) was killed for putting a fence around his land, 40 years later Brandley's grandson Clarence (Courtney B. Vance - D-Tox) lives in the same town working as a janitor at the local high school. When Clarence and his colleague Icky (Derek McGrath) come across the murdered body of a teen girl in the school the Sheriff and his men arrest Clarence for the murder. It soon becomes apparent to Clarence and the black community that he is being stitched up for the murder with several people lying in court to cover their own backs and despite a lack of evidence ends up inside. With Clarence falling in to a state of self pity whilst his lawyer Don Brown (Chuck Shamata - Tipping Point) discovers some misconduct when it comes to the judge and prosecutor, civil rights activist Jew Don Boney (Eamonn Walker - The Company Men) becomes involved in the case and getting Clarence a fair trial.
As you can tell by the title "Whitewash: The Clarence Brandley Story" takes us in to true story territory and that of a black janitor who gets sentenced to death in a court of white jurors in a racist community. And I am not for one minute going to tell you that Clarence Bradley's story is not a powerful one of racism and injustice. And I am not going to tell you that this movie won't rile you because of the true story because this case of blatant racism and conspiracy will anger you. But what I will say is that it is done before, maybe not Clarence's story but a movie based about racial injustice and so has elements which end up similar.
Now director Tony Bill handles the storyline competently keeping things moving and pretty much every other scene features with an impact moment from the revelation that the prosecution ignored evidence to Clarence's colleagues lying to cover their own back on the witness stand. This is nothing new but it makes the story work to not only keep you hooked but also angered by the injustice. But at times for me Tony Bill's vision is heavy handed especially the opening and closing scenes which whilst making a point do so in an over forced manner.
Tony Bill's handling of the story is not the only good thing and Courtney B. Vance delivers a convincing performance of a man who is not only stitched up but also a man who has given up due to the bigotry which he sees from those around him. Vance's strong performance is matched by Eamonn Walker who brings passion to his role as civil activist Jew Don Boney. But the performance which feels so right is that of Chuck Shamata as lawyer Don Brown who stood by Clarence and thought his corner right from the start. He brings an honesty to the role of a man who knows he is facing a racist system but who won't stop fighting despite of the obvious conspiracy going on.
What this all boils down to is that "Whitewash: The Clarence Brandley Story" is a powerful movie which is due to the nature of the true story on which it is based. But for whatever reason it feels ultimately very familiar to other movies which are about miscarriages of justice and doesn't stand out from the crowd.