Review by Jack Foley
SOME films carry a worthiness about them that’s stifling. Others seem to be trying too hard for awards recognition. Conviction is guilty of both.
Based on the true story of a major miscarriage of American justice, Tony Goldwyn’s film is as predictable as they come – both by virtue of the truth surrounding it but, more disappointingly, it’s adherence to genre convention.
On May 12, 1983, Kenny Waters (played by Sam Rockwell) was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole based almost solely on the testament of two ex-girlfriends who claimed he admitted the crime.
Never doubting his innocence, his sister Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank), a Massachusetts wife and mother of two, took it upon herself to clear his name, embarking on an 18-year quest that saw her train to become a lawyer and doggedly pursue lost and new evidence in spite of personal turmoil.
The triumph against the odds story that ensues is solidly told but totally unspectacular. If anything, it appears to be going through the motions for the individual fighting the system routine, while still bending over backwards to give Swank an awards shot.
She is good, as ever, but is somewhat shackled by the overly earnest script that resolutely turns over every genre cliche. Rockwell, as her bad boy brother, is better but simply because he’s allowed to be more reckless.
Ironically, the truest, most poignant moments are between the two of them, rather than the showboating standalone sequences.
The supporting cast, though, is similarly hit and miss, often let down by a screenplay that insists on making them too easily identifiable: comic relief (Minnie Driver), trailer trash liar (Juliette Lewis) or disapproving and belatedly estranged husband (Loren Dean). Most struggle to appear as anything other than stereotypes.
But then Conviction itself lacks any real sense of its own identity, which given the real life story behind it, is almost a crime in itself.
Running time: 107mins
UK DVD Release: May 30, 2011
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Hilary Swank interview
- Betty Anne Waters interview
- Conviction UK Premiere Gallery