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Top Customer Reviews
I watched it, and found it a bit long and in the end, uninteresting. I feel as though I lost 2 hours of my life on a movie that could have been much more interesting. This movie is by far boring and I couldn't get attached to any characters in there and could care less about what happened to them.
You might want to stay clear of this one.
Directed by Tony Goldwyn
Starring Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Minnie Driver and Melissa Leo
20th Century Fox | 2010 | 102 min | Rated R | Released Feb 01, 2011
Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Video resolution: 1080p
Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
English: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
French: Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1
English SDH, Spanish
Single 50GB Blu-ray Disc
The Film 3.5/5
Conviction tells the true story of Betty Anne Waters (Swank) and her 18-year fight to free her brother Kenny (Rockwell), who was convicted of murder. She was a young woman with two children, working in a bar at the time of Kenny's conviction. Instead of accepting it, she decided to study law part-time so that she could access evidence and fight the case on his behalf.
The story is told with the use of a few flashbacks. The first shows us how Kenny is arrested by police officer Nancy Taylor (Leo), while others show us the relationship between Kenny and Betty Anne when they were small children. Kenny is originally cleared of suspicion, but is arrested a second time two years later. After a series of damning testimonies, he receives a life sentence.
Both siblings struggle to adjust. Kenny tries to commit suicide in prison and Betty Anne almost flunks her class. She splits with her boyfriend and is dismayed when her two boys ask to live with their father because she doesn't spend enough time with them. Imagine having to give up your children in that way. Her decision to help her brother consumed her.
Betty Anne is given new hope when she learns in school that DNA testing has freed other wrongly-convicted prisoners.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Swank, as I mentioned, headlines this piece with a hard edged perseverance. She is quite believable as the matter-of-fact Betty Anne. Sam Rockwell plays her brother, the town troublemaker, with equal parts charm and menace. It's perhaps the film's most compelling performance and there are moments when he sinks to desperation that have real emotional resonance. Minnie Driver befriends Swank in law school, and though their friendship is contrived at best, she becomes a welcome presence in the film. She stands as the one truly appealing character as Swank's mania borders on selfishness and Rockwell is an unstable powder keg. Ironically, the film wants to continuously solicit sympathy for its leads without confronting the unpleasant truths--particularly that Rockwell was a violent repeat offender whom the entire town was able to embrace as a cold blooded killer.
My biggest concern about "Conviction" had little to do with the actual search for justice and everything to do with Betty Anne's character. She pursues her goal steadfastly--to the ruination of her marriage and the alienation of her children. Her conviction, as it were, has turned to obsession and every waking moment of her life in the film is dedicated to this one specific purpose. I can't help but think that the film necessarily glosses over some of the more unpleasant aspects of this pursuit. We get little of Swank's husband, her kids seem mildly annoyed once but are fine with their mother's lack of family focus, and there are never any concerns at work. More telling, Swank hasn't had a relationship with her beloved brother's daughter in all the time he's been in prison. I understand that such a relationship might have been complicated, but the film doesn't even try to explain her complete lack of concern over this family bond. She calls her niece near the end of the film and actually says in the message-- "you may not remember me." Wow! Seems like some of her dogged determination might have been applied to other relationships as well!
But, again, I don't think any of this will matter to most. At heart, there is no escaping the facts of "Conviction" and they present a uniquely fascinating story. The little guy sticking it to the man, David versus Goliath, "never quit"--man, I'm practically cheering myself. "Conviction" is a good film filled with earnest performances (a drunk Juliette Lewis is inspired) told in standard biopic format. I don't think it digs quite far enough into the characterizations, but the story sells itself. Fascinating, scary, frustrating, and even inspiring--the Betty Anne Waters saga was begging to be represented on the big screen! KGHarris, 10/10.
In 1983, Kenny is convicted of the bloody murder of an elderly neighbor largely on the basis of testimony from two former girlfriends, both of whom claimed he confessed his actions to them. Neither Kenny nor Betty Anne can afford a good attorney, so she decides to become a lawyer even though she's a high school dropout. Also serving as one of the film's executive producers, Swank come back securely to the against-all-odds territory of Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby (2004) by following Betty Anne's sixteen-year journey from her GED through college, then law school, and finally passing the bar - all while she was raising two boys and working part-time at a local pub. The ending is predictable from a mile away, but the journey is not. The introduction of DNA evidence provides a linchpin that spins the story close to Lifetime-level dramatics, especially when Betty Ann solicits the assistance of the Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization devoted to overturning wrongful convictions. Gray's screenplay is solid enough, and Goldwyn's direction is assured within the back-and-forth treatment of the timeline.
However, it's really the acting that is aces here. Beyond Swank's sterling work, Sam Rockwell brings an unpredictable furor and a surprising vulnerability to the showier role of Kenny. His rapport with Swank never feels forced, and the devotion of their sibling relationship is what really grounds the threat of hysterics in the film. The periphery is populated by a powerful squad of actresses turning in sharply etched work - Minnie Driver as Betty Ann's law-school friend Abra, whose comic spark highlights how pivotal her character is in representing the audience viewpoint; Melissa Leo (Frozen River) as the malevolent arresting cop, whose secretive hostility provides the impetus for Kenny's conviction; Juliette Lewis as Kenny's dentally-challenged ex-girlfriend with a drunken confession scene that reveals the actress's long-forgotten raw talent below her usual giddiness; Karen Young in a brief scene as the unforgivable Mrs. Waters; and Ari Graynor (Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist) as Kenny's embittered grown daughter. It's the cast's cumulative work that makes this movie intensely watchable.
Many viewers may already know the ending if they remember the news coverage around the event - much of which involved recently re-elected Attorney General Martha Coakley (who is portrayed only briefly on screen in the film). If you know the outcome - which is a twist in itself - this movie is still worth seeing for the great acting from Swank and Rockwell. If you don't know the ending going in, don't read anything else about the film as the payoff will be that much greater.
Technically the film is a little choppy - the editing, pace, and supporting character development left quite a bit to be desired. That being said, the story itself is so fascinating and compelling that forgiving the films technical flaws becomes quite easy. I would suggest checking this one out. It's a lot like A Civil Action with John Travolta, but not quite as good.
Would I watch it again? - Yes, I would make some people I know watch it too.
Hilary Swank stars in the film so aptly titled Conviction. Here again Swank portrays the real-life Betty Ann Waters. Betty Ann's brother, Kenny was convicted of a violent murder in their home town in Massachusetts and sent to prison in 1983. Betty Ann and Kenny grew up in a dysfunctional home and were tossed around to a plethora of foster homes during their childhood and adolescence. The only family they had was each other. Their relationship was so close and intimate that there was no doubt in her mind that her brother was incapable of murder. Kenny was a self-admitted bad boy. He had been arrested so many times in their small community that when Kenny's neighbor turned up murdered it seemed to be an easy assumption that Kenny was the perpetrator of the crime.
Betty Ann had no money for high-paid lawyers and when Kenny tries to kill himself in prison, she came up with a solution to their problem. She will go to college, then law school and then become a lawyer and find the evidence to set her brother free. This sound like a plot made-up in a studio office, but it is the true story of this amazing woman. And, there would be no movie, if Betty Ann's astounding story didn't have a happy ending.
Telling this story is difficult. But the even script by Pamela Gray provides a good point of departure for Tony Goldwyn's direction and the moving performances by the actors. Without hesitation, Hilary Swank is definitely back, her disappointing performance as Amelia Earhart last year could have ended her trip down the red carpet to win Oscar gold forever. Her performance playing Betty Ann is subtle and convincing. But it's not just Hilary Swank's performance that should be noted. Sam Rockwell's portrayal of Kenny Waters is amazing and heart-wrenching. His scenes in prison are remarkable as he so effortlessly depicts the wide range of emotions from complete hopelessness when years of imprisonment wear on him to utter joy when he learns that his sister has done the impossible. And lastly, Minnie Driver makes a great impression playing Betty Ann's law school friend. It's a role that could garner attention at award time, and hopefully will lead to more roles in the future.
Conviction is one of the best films of the year. It is a story of never-ending loyalty and love of a sister. It is an inspirational and uplifting film. This film will make you believe again, that with desire, perseverance and the conviction to never stop trying, almost anything is possible.
The Buzz: If Sam Rockwell is not recognized during award season, it will be a shame!
To see more of Kay Shackleton's reviews or film industry news see: [...]
-Kay Shackleton is a film historian with focus on the Silent Film Era, see her work at [...]