Conviction (Review)

(10/15/10; Drama)
Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Minnie Driver, Melissa Leo, Ari Graynor, Loren Dean, Jennifer G. Roberts, Clea DuVall, Juliette Lewis, Peter Gallagher
SCR: Pamela Gray
DIR: Tony Goldwyn
MPAA: R for language and some violent images.
1 hour 47 mins
BOX: $7,226,033

Oscar-friendly biopic about Betty Anne Waters (Swank), a single mother who earned her GED, then her bachelor’s, a master’s in education, and eventually a law degree, all in pursuit of proving her brother’s innocence. Kenny Waters (Rockwell) was convicted of murdering Katharina Brow in Ayer, Massachusetts in 1980.

I have to admit, I put off watching this movie as long as I could because the trailers were horrible and the title was worse. But Conviction (ugh) takes a sprawling 20-year story and breaks it down in a way that’s compelling without being hammy. The acting is powerful – in particular, Swank and Rockwell, who create an indelible bond as siblings who grew up in less than harmonious surroundings, and came to rely on each other.

Leo is the tough police officer who arrests Kenny; Driver is a fellow law student; Lewis is disturbing as a drug-addled middle-aged human wreck with missing teeth. What a performance.

Swank has two Oscars (for Million Dollar Baby and Boys Don’t Cry) and has been as good as she’s been miscast (Amelia). But Rockwell is consistently solid in just about everything and might have gotten some award season love if people had actually seen this movie.

REAL-LIFE SPOILER: Although the movie never tells us this, Kenny Waters died from a fall six months after the events in this film. Considering the upbeat ending, that’s a real tragedy, one that might have added another layer of depth. (Fox Searchlight Pictures)


Author: Dennis Willis

Dennis Willis is an award-winning producer, TV host, producer, director, editor (he preferred Avid until a torrid affair with Adobe Premiere, and the rest is history), author and film critic (print and radio). Dennis produced and hosted the TV programs Reel Life, FilmTrip, Soundwaves (1983-2008) and produces the annual Soundwaves Xmas program. He is currently the film critic on KGO Radio in San Francisco, and a member of both the San Francisco Film Critics Circle and the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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