RR LogoFilm Review Conviction page one

Reviewed by Macie Reynolds

Film Review Convcition photoMuch like true conviction pulls on the threads of rational confidence and opinionated beliefs, Conviction attempts to weave a hybrid fabric of the archetypical Hollywood melodrama and heartfelt empathy meets fairytale.  Presenting the case of Kenny Waters (played by Sam Rockwell), a lower class life of the party type whose evident temper is showcased throughout the film, steadying him as the biggest question mark in the plot.  Determining whether he was wrongly convicted of murder fades to the background as the bulk of the one hundred minute film follows his determined and equally undereducated sister, Betty Ann Waters, (played by Hilary Swank) in her journey to acquit her brother.

Established early in the film is a brother-sister bond through juvenile delinquency backed by the despair of sibling separation through foster care making it no surprise that Betty Ann's conviction of her brother's innocence would run so deep that she is willing to spend her life in unreserved sacrifice to protect his innocence. The initial layout of the plot is thorough, presenting Kenny as the quirky but hot-tempered class clown aced by Rockwell in a fitting role that continues to keep a little mystery in the plot.  While his temperament lines up with a convict potentially capable of murder, the mystery becomes as daunting as a game of Clue as Kenny becomes a shadow of mystery to the storyline.  The focus quickly turns to Betty Ann who is busy knitting together evidence by attending law school and stitching a pattern of failed justice while ignoring the frayed pieces of her home life and marriage.   

Produced by Tony Goldwyn, the Pamela Gray script is manufactured in a manner as genuine as fabric imported from China; comprised of a prod of compassion, the quest for justice followed by a coincidental exception to the rule (ultimately saving the day), mid-movie success, late quarter crisis invoking a dash of mystery, and the eventual happy ending.  Despite an all-star cast capable of delivering the next Erin Brockovich, the potential to provide an angle not overplayed in tinsel town fades away as the cycle spins a characteristic journey from scorned to vindication.  

Well-crafted for the first half hour, the plot moves quickly after developing Kenny and Betty Ann as characters and begins to focus only on drawing the empathy for Kenny as an inmate whose innocence, if maintained, would be an obvious injustice.  The emotive seam would stitch an empathetic undertone in the fabric regardless of angle portrayed, if only Conviction had given more perspective to the real-life aspects of a twenty-year battle for freedom and justice, the corruption and blackmail that allowed it, or the daunting sacrifice of the sister that saved the day. The unfortunate reality is that, like any other stereotypical plot, Conviction follows the bell-curve of any other made-for-TV movie showcasing the lower-class citizen's rise from the ashes meant to strap in a sympathetic audience for the predictable roller coaster ride.  

On the lighter side, this film is embellished with secondary characters that deliver humor, wit and Sex-in-the-City style charm.  Abra Rice (played by Minnie Driver) keeps the audience chuckling as the lawyer that carries Betty Ann through law school. Juliette Lewis plays one of Kenny's former lovers, sardonically adorning the flick with a parody the stereotypical mobile home dweller and ironic flash of intelligence at an inopportune moment.  As a slight bonus for viewers whose perception of comedy is slightly offbeat us Hilary Swank's disgraceful New England accent and the lack of consistency in applying it throughout the film.  

While even the most cynical critic will scoff at a run of the mill happy ending, the knowledge that the film is based on a true story adds a layer of warmth that should find the movie at mid-rank during the upcoming holiday season where feel-good flicks are as prevalent as holiday discount sales.  Ultimately the movie's real-world authenticity is lost as the angle is no different than the approach of a scripted rom-com sure to find its place on the Hallmark channel alongside next year's holiday rotation featuring Debra Messing.