Conviction Does Not Stick to the Formula
A young man is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. His sister believes in his innocence. Without a bit of support, Sis dedicates herself to getting her brother out of prison. Sounds formulaic, right? In a film based on a true story, Hilary Swank is Betty Anne Waters, the sister who put her life on hold, trying to prove that Kenny Waters (Sam Rockwell) was not guilty.
What separates Conviction from other against-the-odds movies is that it didn’t take Betty Anne a few months or a couple of years to succeed, it took eighteen years. In those eighteen years, the lower-class high school dropout put herself through law school so that she could pick up her brother’s case where the public defenders left off.
There’s no question—the odds were definitely against her. A waitress working nights, she had two sons at home who didn’t always sympathize with her obsession. When DNA technology had been refined to the point that people were exonerated through DNA testing, she was challenged to find evidence that everyone believed was destroyed. This is where her background as a mom came in—nag, nag, nag.
Once DNA tests revealed that her brother was not the perpetrator, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley did not allow his release, claiming that he could still be charged as an accessory. By this point Barry Scheck (Peter Gallagher) was involved and new evidence was needed. Could Betty Anne get lying witnesses to recant?
With strong performances from Swank and Rockwell and support from Minnie Driver (as Betty Anne’s only friend, the film’s highlight), Juliette Lewis, Melissa Leo, Karen Young, and Clea Duvall, Conviction rises above its formula, delivering an absorbing story that holds the audience’s attention throughout. Not such an easy task when the audience knows how it’s going to end.
Conviction will be released by Twentieth Century Fox on DVD and Blu-ray, February 1, 2011.