Conviction (2010)

Directed by Tony Goldwyn
Written by Pamela Gray

I had won a free pass to see this movie, and given the actors in it, I jumped at the opportunity to see it. I really had little idea what it may be about specifically, but Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell were enough to get me there to see it. Other than the cast, I am fairly unfamiliar with the collaborators of the film. The director is Tony Goldwyn and the writer is Pamela Gray, neither whom have been very prolific. I guess I ended up getting exactly what I was expecting from this film. The film is about a man, Kenny Waters (Rockwell), who has been a trouble maker his whole life. When a brutal murder occurs in his small hometown, he is pegged as the killer and convicted with life in prison. His sister, Betty Anne (Swank), convinced of his innocence, commits her whole life to becoming a lawyer and proving her brother’s innocence. She must go through many hoops and even sacrifices her marriage, though stays very close to her two young sons. Along the way she meets Abra (Driver), who becomes her only close friend and helps to overturn Kenny’s conviction.

The cast is what is of note here. Swank and Rockwell both give great performances as expected, but Melissa Leo (Frozen River), Bailee Madison (Brothers) and even Juliette Lewis and Minnie Driver also do well in bit parts. The bottom line, however, is that this is Swank and Rockwell’s movie. They are on screen the most, though I would even consider Rockwell supporting, and they shine when they are. They may have both given better performances in other films, but what they deliver here is what I have come to expect of these great talents. And none in the business today is more entertaining to watch than Sam Rockwell. He has such a presence. And what are truly remarkable are the moments where Swank and Rockwell connect on screen. They are so convincing as a brother-sister relationship that holds nothing but love for each other in their hearts and there are many heartbreaking and moving moments when they are the only thing on screen.

The problem with the film is that nothing apart from these two performances is very notable. The story, based on true events, is a bit dull for the movie format. The story succeeds in emotion, but sadly the story consists of lawyers and courtrooms and other things that the film doesn’t get right. The pace is a bit spazzy. It starts to do flashback and then back to real time and just never finds itself in the pacing. The remainder of the film is mediocre at best and quickly forgotten. Sometimes strong, central performances can carry a film, and sometimes they can’t. Conviction is an example of the latter.

Written by

Adam Kuhn is a film critic and blogger at Corndog Chats. He started Corndog Chats in 2009 at the behest of his friends, and is very glad he did. Since then, he has been a contributor to The News Record and Bearcast Media, the student newspaper and radio station of the University of Cincinnati respectively, and most recently a member of the Columbus Film Critics Association.

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