13 Nov

Title: Conviction
Tony Goldwyn
Pamela Gray
Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Minnie Driver, Juliette Lewis, Melissa Leo, Peter Gallagher
MPAA Rating:
R, language and some violent images
107 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating:
Rotten Tomatoes:


I thought Conviction was going to be a way better film that it ultimately was. I mean, I did like the film, but I like the real-life story on which it was based way more. I thought the film was infinitely less compelling that it could have considering the source material it had and, what’s more, I felt like it tried too hard for your emotions, and I hate it when a film gets this conniving. I will however, say this for Conviction, Hilary Swank’s performance, though not award-worthy is still pretty damn good, and Sam Rockwell’s performance is even better, and he should be in the shortlist for the Best Supporting Actor nominations come awards season.

The story behind Conviction, the one of Betty Anne Waters who freed her wrongly-convicted brother from jail, is seriously good. I remember there was one 60 Minutes special about it that aired years ago and that served as the inspiration for this film that’s just terrific. And Conviction tells this story well, because it shows how Betty Anne completely altered her life for her cause, she left everything behind to fight for her brother, and it’s just a very compelling story all-around that needed a very powerful actress to embody that and, as I said, Hilary Swank delivers in this one. Though to be honest her performance was being touted as much better early onwards when the film was gathering buzz, most of which has subdued by now, and there’s still a part of me would have actually preferred to see the original choice of Naomi Watts in the role.

But yeah, even though I think Ms. Swank is actually terribly overrated, which is probably just me being pissed at her for stealing Annette Bening’s two Oscars, I do admit that she plays Betty Anne Waters quite well. She embodies that decided woman who had a harsh childhood and loves her brother, Kenny. And the role of Kenny Waters is played by Sam Rockwell in one seriously good performance. The guy liked to get buzzed, he was the life of the party, though he was known to be able to lose it sometimes. And then one night he’s arrested in suspicion of the murder of a woman who lived nearby. His bad attitude gets him on the nerves of a local policewoman who, after getting some bad testimonials from witnesses gets him behind bars.

And then the real story begins, when we see Betty Anne putting her life on hold to dedicate herself fully to proving his innocence. And the transformation this woman went through is outstanding, she went back to highschool, college, law school, all of this to get her brother out of jail because she was entirely sure he was innocent. We also get to meet Abra, a woman Betty Anne meets in law school who feels for her situation and ends up helping Betty Anne a lot the rest of the way. Abra is played by Minnie Driver, who’s also very effective in her role, and who I think I hadn’t seen at all before this since her days in The Riches, which made me realize I missed her quite a bit.

Kenny, in case you don’t know, was actually innocent, and he was freed and then died a few months after his release after a fall. Such is the irony in life, her sister literally threw her life, marriage and all, out the window to get him out and he dies a few months after she finally gets him released. But still, Betty Anne Waters is still dedicating her life to those wrongfully accused to this very day. The thing is, even though we already know the result, the good stuff is the story of how it came to be. The story of how she got Kenny to be freed, and there actually are some good courtroom scenes in Conviction, and it all works because you feel enraged knowing Kenny was innocent and that the law system was so damn ineffective.

However, as I said, I didn’t like Conviction as much as I thought I would. It started out really nicely, the scenes in which Mr. Rockwell was Kenny just partying and in town we pretty good, the guy is just really great at playing these sort of dangerous characters, those who can flip out all of a sudden. However, even though the real story only starts then and there still a couple of good scenes ahead, the character development kinda just stops there for the most part. And it sucks because even though Ms. Swank and Mr. Rockwell still end up giving pretty good performances the film has other actors too and those are left pretty much having just one dimension. And considering one of these other actors is the amazing Melissa Leo it’s a pity to see her character be so damn plain, though she does make the most of it.

And that’s my problem with Conviction, the fact that it spends its last half feeling completely predictable and formulaic. And considering it was based on a pretty extraordinary true story I hated seeing it resolve to such ordinary tactics. So yes, consider me unimpressed with Conviction but very much impressed with the performance of Sam Rockwell, if it weren’t for him I would be grading this one much lower and recommending it as just a should-have-been Lifetime TV movie. This was a film that had a great story to tell, and a great cast to tell it with, and yet the result we’re left with felt rather mediocre.

Grade: B-


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