- Director:Tony Goldwyn
- Cast:Juliette Lewis, Sam Rockwell, Hilary Swank
- Release Date:February 24, 2011
- Running time:107 minutes
- Film Worth:$14.00
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While it’s overly earnest in places, this inspiring story never veers into excessive sentimentality and is driven by a handful of great performances.
In 2001, news broke in the US of the over-turning of a court decision made eighteen years earlier which had found a Massachusetts man, Kenneth Waters (Sam Rockwell), guilty of murder. For the duration of his incarceration, his sister, Betty Anne (Hilary Swank), fought to have her brother released and his name cleared. An unemployed, single mother without much education, she went back to school, then college, and finally to law school, so she could defend her brother in the appeal against his conviction. Along the way, she had to relocate crucial evidence that had apparently been destroyed, prove that the policewoman (Melissa Leo) who had arrested Kenny was corrupt, seek out witnesses who may have given false testimonies, and obtain support from The Innocence Project, an organisation which helps those wrongly convicted of serious crimes.
Based on extensive research with Betty Anne and using actual court transcripts, Conviction spans an eighteen-year period, and also includes flashbacks to the siblings' childhood. Sam Rockwell delivers a great performance as the volatile Kenny, and the supporting characters are well fleshed out, but Hilary Swank seems to be merely reprising her roles from earlier films such as Million Dollar Baby and Freedom Writers. She is certainly watchable and skilled, but she doesn't bring anything especially new or fresh to this part, and her doggedly determined Betty Anne, with a shining heart of gold, just seems too good to be true.
Conviction is an inspiring story, but does it really warrant being made into a feature length film? It is told in a mundane, overly earnest fashion, and has obviously been sanitised for the big screen. Fortunately, it isn't excessively sentimental (although there are several mawkish moments) or it would have been unbearable.