Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Minnie Driver, Peter Gallagher. Drama. Directed by Tony Goldwyn.
FILM SYNOPSIS: Conviction is the inspirational true story of a sister’s unwavering devotion to her brother. When Betty Anne Waters’ (two-time Academy® Award winner Hilary Swank) older brother Kenny (Sam Rockwell) is arrested for murder and sentenced to life in 1983, Betty Anne, a Massachusetts wife and mother of two, dedicates her life to overturning the murder conviction.
Convinced that her brother is innocent, Betty Anne puts herself through high school, college and, finally, law school in an 18-year quest to free Kenny. With the help of best friend Abra Rice (Academy Award nominee Minnie Driver), Betty Anne pores through suspicious evidence mounted by small-town cop Nancy Taylor (Academy Award nominee Melissa Leo), meticulously retracing the steps that led to Kenny’s arrest. Belief in her brother – and her quest for the truth – pushes Betty Anne and her team to uncover the facts and utilize DNA evidence with the hope of exonerating Kenny.
PREVIEW REVIEW: It’s so hard to find something original at the movies these days, something clever, something with substance. Conviction is that. Though its premise is far-fetched – a woman goes to school, then becomes a lawyer in order to get her prison lifer brother a new trial - it's bond-of-love theme is moving, encouraging, uplifting.
Aided by strong performances and a literate script, director Tony Goldwyn keeps us glued to our seats with pacing and focus. Goldwyn makes clear that Betty Anne’s obsessive conviction is based on a sibling bond so deep it, if you will, convicts us, reminding us that of all the gifts people can have, the greatest of these is love.
Sadly, this production tells its R-rated story with the constant use of objectionable language. Brought up on the wrong side of the tracks, the family finds it difficult to express thought without the use of obscenity. Even in their desperation, the only acknowledgement brother or sister give to God and Christ is the taking of their names in order to express anger or frustration.
The argument for such language is always, “It’s true to life. That’s how people talk.” Interestingly, in the movies both those with an education and those without use the same verbal carnage. Debate its use if you will; still I find it base and uncreative. Movies are often best when their makers remember it’s an illusionary art form. If you view The Wrong Man, a Alfred Hitchcock thriller about a man sent to prison because of a mistaken identity, you’ll hear no curse words. Does that take away from the horror this man and his family undergo? Not in the least. Indeed, it would be my video alternative, along with Call Northside 777, if I thought you’d watch a black-and-white film starring those no longer with us.
Frustrating for me, because I liked this story and the touching performances. But if you attend and start squirming due to hearing the f-word 50 times or the abuse of our Creator’s name 12 times, remember – I warned you. And if it doesn’t bother you, how come?
DVD Alternatives: The Wrong Man. Henry Fonda plays a mild-mannered musician wrongly accused of a crime in this tense Hitchcock drama. This one unnerves due to the possibility of being accused of something we didn’t do and how that moment can affect an entire life.
Call Northside 777. James Stewart stars in this riveting, semi-documentary styled account of newsman trying to prove the innocence of a convicted killer. Dated, for sure, but intense script and strong performances well worth viewing.
Shadow of a Doubt. Hitchcock classic has demented uncle running away from murders only to be found out by his loving niece.