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Conviction (2010)

DVD Cover (Fox Searchlight)
Genres:
Courtroom Drama, Docudrama, Drama
Director:
Tony Goldwyn Tony Goldwyn
Starring:
Hilary Swank Hilary Swank
Sam Rockwell Sam Rockwell
Thomas D. Mahard Thomas D. Mahard
Owen Campbell Owen Campbell
Conor Donovan Conor Donovan

7.2 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by bluemeanie
Added: November 02, 2010
This film sounds like a Lifetime Movie of the Week, right? Either that or one of those crappy ABC movies which, fortunately, have been out of style for a while now. "False Witness: The Betty Anne Waters Story". That could be the title for this film. "Conviction" could have easily been a sugared-down, poorly written soap opera with campy performances and and enough fake tears to fill the largest bucket on Sunset. But it isn't. "Conviction" is a strong effort from director Tony Goldwyn featuring stellar performances and a plot intriguing enough to rise above the potentially melodramatic themes therein. The film reminded me of something like "The Rainmaker" where you have the underdog lawyer fighting the case that no one thinks she can win.

Based on a true story, "Conviction" is about the relationship between Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank) and her brother and best friend Kenny (Sam Rockwell). Having gone through one hell of a childhood, they always clung to each other for support. One day Kenny is arrested by a malicious female cop (Melissa Leo) for the murder of an older woman in town. He is released but, two years later, he is picked up again for the same murder and, this time, is tried and convicted of the crime and sentenced to life in prison. Devastated by the verdict and unwilling to let her brother rot in prison for a crime she is sure he did not commit, Betty Anne embarks on a sixteen-year journey to obtain her BA, go to law school and then find a way to get her brother released. Lucky for her, by the time she graduates, DNA-testing is the new thing and she recruits attorney Barry Scheck (Peter Gallagher) to help prove her brother is innocent, which she does -- and that should not be a spoiler.

Throughout this journey we meet men and women he help complete this story. Minnie Driver co-stars as Betty Anne's friend and classmate who helps her throughout her quest. Juliette Lewis and Clea DuVall star as two women who help secure Kenny's conviction even though their testimony might not have been totally honest. And Ari Graynor stars as Kenny's daughter who has spent her entire life thinking her father was a murderer. All of these characters play important roles in the events that transpire in this film. The biggest disappointment was that Melissa Leo's character seemed to have been cut from a lot of the film. I have to think they shot more scenes with that character and I wish they would have made the finished product because we never get enough of a clear idea about that character and why she does what she does and how it affects her. She is literally in three scenes in the entire film -- and with an actress as amazing as Melissa Leo, you just want more.

The script by Pamela Gray cuts through all of the melodrama and high-acting schlock and produces a series of believable and brutally honest events -- from those opening shots of the murder scene to the heartbreaking scenes where Betty Anne's character must confront whether or not she has wasted her entire life on this one cause -- and what that might have done to her family. The direction from Tony Goldwyn is strong and even-handed and he doesn't spend a lot of time focusing on the wrongs committed by the justice system. He instead focuses on the relationship between Betty Anne and Kenny, which was definitely a wise move. This is one of the best examples of a film about the justice system that has very few scenes in a court. That takes some courage when you consider court room scenes are sure-fire ways to peak an audience's attention. 8/10.
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