Conviction (2010) Poster

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A simple, dramatic story told well through emotional performances
napierslogs30 October 2010
"Conviction" is a simple, dramatic story, told well. Betty Anne (Hilary Swank) puts herself through law school for the sole effort of freeing her innocent brother Kenny (Sam Rockwell) from a life-sentence in prison for murder. Swank and Rockwell both carry this emotional film on their very strong shoulders.

There are very few courtroom scenes, very few law school scenes, but it is filled with emotional connections between brother and sister as she visits him in prison, and as she tries living her own life. The characters dominate the beginning of the film, and the steps Swank has to take to free Rockwell keeps the film going towards the end.

It is shot well, as this is clearly Massachusetts and it set the right feelings for the film without overpowering it. The highlights are Swank and Rockwell as they both play characters with elements that we have seen before that have given Swank Oscar wins and have given Rockwell popularity. Here, he has toned down his comic antics just enough for his performance to remain popular but should also give him his first Oscar nomination.

The story may be missing a few elements that would have given it more substance to make it more interesting, but it seems to me, that's because the film-makers had a few restrictions in keeping to the true story. This may actually be a true story and not just based on one.

I recommend "Conviction" for its emotional performances and for telling its simple story well.
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Swank Is Back with a Sharp Cast in an Inspiring Fact-Based Story Bordering on Incredulity
Ed Uyeshima23 October 2010
After making decidedly wrong turns into rom-com in 2007's "P.S. I Love You" and historical biopic in 2009's "Amelia", Hilary Swank is back in her element as Betty Ann Waters, a working-class single mother of two whose fierce loyalty to her troublemaking brother Kenny knows no bounds, in actor/director Tony Goldwyn's time-spanning, fact-based 2010 drama. Written by Pamela Gray (she and Goldwyn also collaborated on 1999's affecting "A Walk on the Moon"), the inspiring, potentially melodramatic plot line often borders on incredulity, but Swank's trademark iron-jawed tenacity is on full display here. At the same time, it's a primarily economic performance teetering on lunacy as her character is tightly bound to Kenny since they shared a painful childhood due to the neglect of a horrifying mother.

In 1983, Kenny is convicted of the bloody murder of an elderly neighbor largely on the basis of testimony from two former girlfriends, both of whom claimed he confessed his actions to them. Neither Kenny nor Betty Anne can afford a good attorney, so she decides to become a lawyer even though she's a high school dropout. Also serving as one of the film's executive producers, Swank come back securely to the against-all-odds territory of Clint Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby" (2004) by following Betty Ann's sixteen-year journey from her GED through college, then law school, and finally passing the bar – all while she was raising two boys and working part-time at a local pub. The ending is predictable from a mile away, but the journey is not. The introduction of DNA evidence provides a linchpin that spins the story close to Lifetime-level dramatics, especially when Betty Ann solicits the assistance of the Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization devoted to overturning wrongful convictions. Gray's screenplay is solid enough, and Goldwyn's direction is assured within the back-and-forth treatment of the timeline.

However, it's really the acting that is aces here. Beyond Swank's sterling work, Sam Rockwell brings an unpredictable furor and a surprising vulnerability to the showier role of Kenny. His rapport with Swank never feels forced, and the devotion of their sibling relationship is what really grounds the threat of hysterics in the film. The periphery is populated by a powerful squad of actresses turning in sharply etched work - Minnie Driver as Betty Ann's law-school friend Abra, whose comic spark highlights how pivotal her character is in representing the audience viewpoint; Melissa Leo ("Frozen River") as the malevolent arresting cop, whose secretive hostility provides the impetus for Kenny's conviction; Juliette Lewis as Kenny's dentally-challenged ex-girlfriend with a drunken confession scene that reveals the actress's long-forgotten raw talent below her usual giddiness; Karen Young in a brief scene as the unforgivable Mrs. Waters; and Ari Graynor ("Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist") as Kenny's embittered grown daughter. It's the cast's cumulative work that makes this movie intensely watchable.
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.Conviction - one of the best films of the year!
Kay Shackleton31 October 2010
Loyalty: It something we all expect from our loved ones, but we so rarely receive. How loyal would our families be if we were convicted of a crime we were innocent of and sent to prison for the rest of lives? Would they put all their worldly desires away to do everything in their power to see to our injustice? I dare say that I know that it takes a special few that have such perseverance or such conviction.

Hilary Swank stars in the film so aptly titled Conviction. Here again Swank portrays the real-life Betty Ann Waters. Betty Ann's brother, Kenny was convicted of a violent murder in their home town in Massachusetts and sent to prison in 1983. Betty Ann and Kenny grew up in a dysfunctional home and were tossed around to a plethora of foster homes during their childhood and adolescence. The only family they had was each other. Their relationship was so close and intimate that there was no doubt in her mind that her brother was incapable of murder. Kenny was a self-admitted bad boy. He had been arrested so many times in their small community that when Kenny's neighbor turned up murdered it seemed to be an easy assumption that Kenny was the perpetrator of the crime.

Betty Ann had no money for high-paid lawyers and when Kenny tries to kill himself in prison, she came up with a solution to their problem. She will go to college, then law school and then become a lawyer and find the evidence to set her brother free. This sound like a plot made-up in a studio office, but it is the true story of this amazing woman. And, there would be no movie, if Betty Ann's astounding story didn't have a happy ending.

Telling this story is difficult. But the even script by Pamela Gray provides a good point of departure for Tony Goldwyn's direction and the moving performances by the actors. Without hesitation, Hilary Swank is definitely back, her disappointing performance as Amelia Earhart last year could have ended her trip down the red carpet to win Oscar gold forever. Her performance playing Betty Ann is subtle and convincing. But it's not just Hilary Swank's performance that should be noted. Sam Rockwell's portrayal of Kenny Waters is amazing and heart-wrenching. His scenes in prison are remarkable as he so effortlessly depicts the wide range of emotions from complete hopelessness when years of imprisonment wear on him to utter joy when he learns that his sister has done the impossible. And lastly, Minnie Driver makes a great impression playing Betty Ann's law school friend. It's a role that could garner attention at award time, and hopefully will lead to more roles in the future.

Conviction is one of the best films of the year. Its story of never-ending loyalty and love of a sister. It is inspirational and uplifting. This film will make you believe again, that with desire, perseverance and the conviction to never stop trying, almost anything is possible.

For more reviews and news written by Kay Shackleton, see here:
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Hopefully this film will finally give Sam Rockwell, the recognition he deserves.
Grey Gardens30 July 2010
Wow conviction is definitely a deeply moving film and very well acted by Hilary Swank, Minnie Driver and Juliette Lewis. However Sam Rockwell is the one who really shines in Conviction. He plays his role as this man who got wrongfully convicted of murder, really raw and powerful. His character had many different emotions in this film. He had to express many different emotional feelings in the role. He had to be angry, sad, and happy and he portrayed it very well. If he doesn't get an Oscar nomination for this film, I'd be truly surprised if he doesn't get his recognition, he is severely underrated, so much so that it actually angers me, that the Academy doesn't recognize Sam Rockwell because he is definitely overdue for an Oscar nomination or win.

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An inspirational true story of commitment & life's struggles
(Synopsis) Conviction is based on an inspiring true story of Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank), a high school dropout who over 18-years put herself through law school to represent and hopefully overturn her innocent brother's, Kenny Waters (Sam Rockwell), murder conviction. Betty Anne is a working mother of two boys who believes that her brother was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to life in prison for a 1980 bloody murder of a woman living in a trailer next door to him in Ayer, Massachusetts. Kenny's ability to appeal his conviction using public defenders has been exhausted and without a lawyer, he will die in prison. That is when Betty Anne decides to dedicate her life to save her brother. With a newly earned law degree in hand, she hopes to exonerate her brother with new evidence and the new science of DNA.

(My Comment) This is a story of what a devoted and inseparable loving sister can do for her brother when he needs her most. Their family bond for each other, while growing up on a farm, is stronger than any prison can break. The movie shows Betty Anne Waters' commitment in freeing her brother as the only thing that will make her life complete. The struggles she endures to become a lawyer, and her willpower to save her brother from any further pain is inspirational. The bond between Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell seems very real, including the steps that she takes as an obsessed lawyer to set him free. Their performances were brilliant, and I believe that both of them will be nominated for an Oscar. This is a movie to see. Footnote: The Innocence Project using DNA matching since 1989 has freed over 254 innocent people from prison in the United States. (Fox Searchlight Pictures, Run Time 1:46, Rated R) (8/10)
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The Best Courtroom Drama of the Twentieth-First Century
Claudio Carvalho11 April 2012
In Ayer, Massachusetts, the siblings Betty Anne and Kenneth 'Kenny' Waters are very close to each other and they are neglected by their single mother and prostitute Elizabeth Waters (Karen Young).

In their come of age, Kenny (Sam Rockwell) is a troublemaker with a baby daughter hated by the local police department and Betty Anne (Hilary Swank) gets married and has two sons. When their neighbor is stabbed to death, the police officer Nancy Taylor (Melissa Leo) that has hatred for Kenny, arrests him and he is sent to court for trial.

Kenny and Betty Anne can not afford to hire a lawyer and Kenny is defended by a public defender. He is sentenced to life without probation, based on the evidence of his blood type and the testimony of his girlfriends Brenda Marsh (Clea DuVall) and Roseanna Perry (Juliette Lewis).

When Kenny tries to commit suicide in prison, his sister tells him that she will complete her elementary school and high-school to go to law school to reopen his case and overturn his sentence.

"Conviction" is the best courtroom drama of the Twentieth-First Century. The inspiring story of a waitress that decides to study to become a lawyer to defend her beloved and innocent brother that was sentenced to life without probation and release him after twenty years is one of the most beautiful examples of dedication, determination, devotion and fraternal love.

The top-notch performances of Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell and Juliette Lewis deserved nomination to the Oscar. The tragic and ironic fate of Kenny six months after his freedom is not mentioned in the film that stops the journey of the Waters family in the best moments of their lives. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): "A Condenação" ("The Conviction")
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A brother's faith and a sister's devotion
Chrysanthepop1 February 2011
I've been wanting to watch Tony Goldwyn's 'Conviction' for a long time. Now movies like this have been done before. While there is the story of 'guilty until proved innocent' but what makes this one stand out is the authenticity with which the brother-sister relationship is portrayed. One doesn't see many Hollywood movies explore sibling relationships unless it's in the form of mockery like 'Stepbrothers'. There are but a very few exceptions like Kenneth Lonergan's beautiful 'You Can Count On Me'.

Swank and Rockwell are very convincing as sister and brother. Their on screen interlude appears very natural and this only makes Betty Anne's determination to prove her brother's innocence all the more believable. Needless to say, both actors are at their best and they are supported wonderfully by Melissa Leo (who plays a bent copper), Juliette Lewis (she seems to have mastered playing trailer-trash characters), Clea Duvall (the lying wife), Minnie Driver (the charming friend) and Peter Gallagher.

One can easily relate to Swank's Betty Anne struggling with the bureaucratic legal system and her drive to free her brother. Unless one has money or the right contacts, one can recognize the situations where Betty Anne is passed over from one administration to another.

'Conviction' is a compelling watch. It involves the viewer right from the very beginning and even though you can predict the ending, it's Betty Anne and Kenny's faith in each other that keeps you hooked.
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Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell were Excellent... Juliette Lewis is Outstanding in her 10mints Role. Wowww.
Saad Khan10 January 2011
CONVICTION – CATCH IT (A-) Conviction is a Heart Hitting True story of a sister fighting for her Brother for 18 years to get Justice. I must say more than movie, the story in itself is simply heart wrenching so, I really applaud for the director, producers for choosing such an incredible true story to be told on screen. The only flaw in the movie was its length and sometimes I found the editing of flashbacks little irritating. The performances in the movie are truly incredible and every time I saw Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell, it brought tears in my eyes. The chemistry between these two actors is amazingly genuine and real. Even the young Brother and Sister played by Bailee Madison and Tobias Campbell had an awesome chemistry and it made the whole movie very relatable. Melissa Leo, Minnie Driver and Elle Bardha did a respectable job. One of the shocking performances in the movie is indeed from Juliet Lewis, who was outstanding in her 10mintutes role. My jaws were literally dropped to see her in middle aged role. You have to see to believe how good she was, I won't be shock if she gets an Oscar Nod for that. Overall, it's an inspiring tale of how far a Sister can go for her Brother, to get Justice. Truly Inspiring.
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Guilty until proved innocent
Perry Bee3 January 2011
This type of film has been done before, but I don't seem to get sick of the subject. But I wish things like this never happened, to rot in a cell for something you did not do must be hell. I believe in justice, but feel most justice systems are flawed. Democracy comes with a price for some, and this story smashes that home! Us common people will be swallowed up in legal rules and regulations when facing an uphill battle like this, and unless you have the financial means, or in the case of this story a sister that will go to the end of the world and back, some people will be found guilty until proved innocent.

This film has a great cast to bring home this great story, and it makes for compelling viewing. I am still to see a role that Sam Rockwell fills that I don't care for, he has been a great actor in so many solid films.

10 out of 10 as the film picks you up at the beginning, get's you involved, makes you feel part of the pain caused by the legal system, even with you knowing the out come of the story line.
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cmeneken-19 December 2010
There are major problems with this film, both regarding accuracy and dramatic tension, among which are: 1)for the film to work we must believe that the accused is not guilty,, and 2) we must understand why his sister felt a need to become a lawyer to save him. The film does not develop either point successfully and thus fails totally. first of all, the accused is presented as a loser, and a violent one at that, with little in the way of redeeming features, with an inferred motive and no showing of alibi. There is no coherent reason given on why his two wives/girlfriends would both accuse him. Even more important, why did his sister believe him to be not guilty, other than because he was her brother. As it turns out, from the facts of the case, there was more evidence, not presented in the movie, that would have convicted the guy, not the least of which he had in his possession a piece of jewelry belonging to the murdered woman, and had vowed to kill her. He was also shown to be even more violent than presented, having recently committed and been convicted of other violent crime. The brutality of the murder strongly suggests someone with a motive, and no showing of anyone else with such motive other than the accused. The film shows recantations by his partners, but the record does not support that this occurred. Even if it did, such recantations are problematic from people close to the accused years after the fact. As to his sister's commitment to becoming a lawyer, this status did not really affect the case. Anyone could have pushed for the DNA evidence and located it and I question if the dramatic presentation really occurred. Even if it did, it might have been cheaper to hire a lawyer than to spend 3 years at law school. Finally, the DNA did not, i repeat, did not, mean he was innocent. It merely meant that the DNA found was not his, according to the test. Even if we assume the test was correct, it might have been that of an accomplice. The DA was willing to retry, but politics got in the way. I doubt that the vicious portrayal of the attorney general was accurate either. Finally, since this guy killed himself six months after he was released, which the movie also conveniently fails to mention, this is suggestive that maybe he knew who the killer was, and he decided to do away with him. Also any portrayal of Barry Scheck as a hero is disquieting since I remember quite well his disgusting performance defending OJ Simpson and trying to convince the dimwits on the jury that the blood evidence and DNA was contaminated or that the police framed OJ. Oh sure!
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Solid performances, poignant real-life story, but average movie.
Fred M. Hung21 January 2011
Difficult to write anything negative about such an triumphant story. The New York Times ran an touching article October last year regarding the real-life story of Betty Anne Waters, a single-mom who put herself through college and law school to exonerate her brother. Much has also been said about the incredible performances of Hillary Swank and Sam Rockwell, but supporting roles from Minnie Driver and Melissa Leo (I'm glad she's getting recognition since Homicide Life on the Street) are no less vibrant. So why the average rating?

The level of drama does not rise above Hallmark Made-for-TV movies. The plot, story pacing, and overall tone of the film are very one- dimensional. There are too few moments where we see these characters interact on any level that's not (melo)dramatic. My favorites scene involves Minnie Driver and Hillary Swank shopping for groceries. It's the only time these characters feel real.

I keep thinking Conviction has the premise of a David E. Kelley TV series, where the Kenny-theme could serve as a season long arc. The characters are interesting enough, but I was hoping for so much more. Conviction is by no means a bad film, but it's not a very good one either.
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Potentially good story, but a mediocre film
hectorjs-641-60558224 March 2013
The story this movie is based on is quite amazing, even more when you think it actually happened in real life... but the movie itself is quite poor. The script never rises beyond the melodramatic, cheesy, predictable stuff. The characters are flat, one-dimensional, without any development. The music never leaves a certain melancholic tone which drags the film the whole way through. In general, I felt disconnected and unmoved even in moments when I realized that the story was at a crucial point...

It's too bad that such a good story got wasted with such a bland and unremarkable film. The 2 stars go only to the actors, who tried to put forward a decent job... unfortunately, it's not enough.

Unless you are bored to death and have absolutely nothing better to do, do not waste your time with this movie.
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As much sibling devotion as conviction
jdesando29 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
"I will never accept it!" Betty Anne

Conviction could have been a TV special that, alas, is nothing special on the screen. The true story is unquestionably compelling: Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank) goes to law school to become her brother, Kenny's (Sam Rockwell) lawyer for the purpose of proving him innocent of a murder for which he is spending his life.

The translation to the screen is formulaic and documentary-like in its series of predictable scenes leading to Kenny's release. Granted, life is not as exciting as drama, but the artists on this film, especially writer Pamela Gray and director Tony Goldwyn, craft a serviceable plot with little inspirational dialogue or action that could reveal depths of sister and brother and even close friend Abra Rice (Minnie Driver), who attends law school with Betty Anne and helps with the defense.

Because we all know the result before seeing the film, the burden is on keeping the momentum going with interesting characters and events. Unfortunately, Swank's perpetual crying and her authentic regional accent and Rockwell's goofy antics are not enough to give heft to an interesting premise. Juliette Lewis as Roseanna Perry, a key witness, is so much the trailer trash Lewis has always done well that the film's biographical integrity could be questioned.

The last third of the film saves it from the abyss because unforeseen complications keep Kenny from leaving prison, and the ensuing investigation is more dynamic than the circumstances of his conviction. As for that, Betty Anne's conviction on behalf of her brother is daunting, a testimony to love that surpasses any romantic notions our fairy tales can conjure.

Compromising the authenticity once again are the ending titles, which tell about Betty Anne's subsequent life as a waitress and public advocate but do not mention that Kenny 6 months later in 2001 fell and died in a freak accident. Not to mine those ironic implications is dramatically unforgivable unless the filmmakers don't want Betty Anne's beatification to be compromised by something as messy as fate.

In the end, Conviction is the real deal of sibling fidelity and an embarrassment to any of us who might not step up if one of our siblings were so convincingly convicted.
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Best movie I saw in 2009
basstudent28 December 2009
My girl friend and I were privileged to be part of the first audience to see this movie at a test screening. We signed waivers so I can't give away details of the movie. So I'll just say it was an excellent movie, the best film I saw in 2009, and I saw a lot of movies this year. My girl friend really enjoyed it too. Women will be the primary demographic that will be targeted to see this film. But men will definitely enjoy it just as much. The performances by Hillary Swank, Juliette Lewis and Sam Rockwell were brilliant. I could see Hillary and Sam getting an Oscar nomination. This is a movie not to miss when it comes out.
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good performances
blanche-226 June 2013
"Conviction" stars Hillary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Minnie Driver, Melissa Leo, Peter Gallagher, and Juliette Lewis in the true-life story of Betty Anne Waters, who becomes an attorney in order to free her brother Kenny of a wrongful murder conviction.

I saw Betty Anne profiled some time ago -- back then, I think she was still in law school.

Kenny Waters is convicted of the murder of Katharina Brow (since she was German, I assume the original last name was Brau) who was viciously knifed in her home. The crime occurred in 1980, when there was no DNA testing, and Kenny had the same blood type as the perpetrator. Several witnesses, including Kenny's wife and ex-girlfriend, testify against him.

Betty Anne, a mother with two children, makes the decision to go to law school in order to free her brother. At that time, she doesn't even have her GED. She comes up against wall after wall, gets divorced, and her children, probably more to help her than anything else, finally go to live with their father. She moonlights running a bar.

Betty Anne contacts Barry Scheck (Gallagher) of the Innocence Project to enlist his group's help. Scheck needs evidence -- by then, it's been about 15 years since Kenny's conviction.

This is a powerful story because it shows, again, what the determination of one person can achieve, and how his or her passion can inspire others to help.

Hillary Swank is a gifted actress, and it's a shame that she hasn't gotten more roles like she had in Boys Don't Cry and Million Dollar Baby. She's natural but intense as Betty Anne, and she can really pull at the heartstrings. Sam Rockwell as Kenny does a wonderful job, and the two have great chemistry together. You could feel his hopelessness, and his fear of being let down.

Everyone is good in this film, with Juliette Lewis as an ex-girlfriend and Melissa Leo as policewoman Nancy Taylor standouts.

The problem I have with this film is that, strip the movie of Hillary Swank and you've got a Lifetime movie. It just doesn't come off like a feature film in the way the story is told or in its focus. It's just a little bit left of cloying. Also, note to writers -- Kenny wasn't in jail, he was in prison. There's a difference.

Despite this, it's a wonderful story, all the more dramatic because it's true. And you can't get enough of its message: One person can make a difference.
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Chris L14 January 2013
The story itself is pretty incredible, but the transcription that was made of it relatively conventional and perfectible. Some points are badly introduced and rushed whereas others could have deserved more consistency. The rhythm is also quite uneven with a few long passages.

Even though, the beauty of the story and its extraordinary aspect compensate for those flaws. Hilary Swank is very good and did a great job with her "Boston" accent. Sam Rockwell is also very solid and, albeit not much on screen, shows undeniable presence in every of his scenes.

All in all, Conviction is a pretty solid movie overall, but too consensual and conventional to make it an excellent feature.
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Opportunity to share an unbelievable but true journey.
FilmRap8 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
This is a true story of a man convicted of a bloody murder in a Boston suburb in the 1980s . There are witnesses who say that he told him he did it and there is blood typing evidence (this is before DNA analysis) which strongly suggests it was him. The only thing going for him is his sister who is sure that he didn't do it. You have seen this relatively simple plot play out many times on television on Dateline, 20/20 or on similar programs. The only difference here is that you have another magnificent performance by Hillary Swank playing Betty Anne Waters who is going to take the next 18 years of her life completing High School, going to college and then law school in order to see if there is way to get her brother his freedom. You also have Sam Rockwell, playing the brother Kenny, in a performance that should earn him an Academy Award nomination. The screen play by Pamela Gray and the direction by Tony Goldwyn gives us pieces of their childhood which clarifies their great devotion to each other. The struggle of Betty Ann to become a lawyer and her determination to find the evidence that would be the key to saving her brother allows us to understand this person. Her interaction with Kenny similarly provides insight into his pain and bravado. The difficult lives of the people in the community where this happened and the very questionable actions of the police and district attorney Martha Coakley (who subsequently was defeated in the recent US Senate race in Massachusetts to replace Kennedy) was brought out by a stunning performance of Juliette Lewis who played one of the witnesses who recounts what really happened to make her testify against Kenny. We had the good fortune to meet at our preview screening Swank, Rockwell, Lewis, the real life Betty Anne Waters and her good friend and fellow law student Abra Rice who was well played in the movie by Minnie Driver. They confirmed that truth is stranger and at times more unbelievable than fiction. I recall reading about the well known lawyer Barry Scheck, who was depicted in this movie, and wondering about his decision to devote his career to the Innocence Project where the new science of DNA matching is applied to old crimes. It turns out that over 250 innocent people have been freed from prison due to his efforts. There is one particular line in this film stands out in this regard as Swank as Betty Ann remarks that if Massachusetts had the death penalty her brother would have been killed before she had chance to make a case for his innocence. Swank, speaking for herself at our screening told how making this movie allowed her to understand the unique life affirming experience that these people went through. Watching this film also gave the audience the opportunity to share this journey.
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omfgitsrohit16 January 2011
Even the excellent performances of Sam Rockwell and Hilary Swank can't save this absolute farce of a film. Conviction is such a drag. There is nothing interesting about the story. But just the fact that it's a real story about a brother and sister, who spent most of their childhood in foster homes, fighting for justice managed to attract a lot of good actors. Once they're on board, director Tony Goldwyn lets them do all the work. He just sits by and watches them work while translating the screenplay in a color by number fashion. The pace is steady only because the director makes no attempt at capturing your attention. Depicting real events hardly matters when what you see on screen isn't the least bit believable. Not worth your time. Just skip it.

Rating - 4/10
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myETVmedia recommends this movie
etvltd7 October 2010
Tony Goldwyn's (The Last Samurai, The Pelican Brief) "Conviction" is a must see at TIFF. Based on the true story of Kenny Water's (Sam Rockwell) murder trial, "Conviction" reveals how powerful the bond of family can be.

Betty Anne (Hilary Swank) is Kenny's sister and long time best friend. An inseparable duo, Kenny and Betty grew up on a farm and have been there for each other for as long as they both can remember. Kenny is a wild card and has a history with crime. A brutal murder occurs in his small town and Kenny is the lead suspect. He is put to trial and sentenced to life without parole. Betty Anne refuses to believe he's guilty and will stop at nothing to prove his innocence; even it means she has to become a lawyer to do it.

Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell are the life-blood of this film. Their performances are Oscar worthy and their chemistry is undeniable. Swank (Academy Award winner – 'Boys Don't Cry') plays a single mother whose purpose in life is to save her brother from dying in prison. Swank delivers an emotionally taxing and versatile performance as a believable sister to Rockwell. Betty Anne is a woman from humble beginnings who was always getting into trouble with her brother. Her evolution into a mother and obsessed lawyer is moving. The bond between Swank and Rockwell seems real and it amplifies the importance of every step she takes towards trying to save him. Rockwell is not outdone by Swank in any more @
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Yet another Hilary sad-sack story
dierregi20 May 2011
This movie is described as "inspirational", "brave", "a triumph of brotherly love" etc… But putting such boasting statements aside, it is a very American tale of someone overcoming huge difficulties and ending as a winner of some sort.

Hilary Swank is specialized in playing white-trash characters hoping for – and hardly ever finding – a better life. Refreshingly, in this movie, she has a brother who is trashier than she is. Therefore, I was hoping the great Sam Rockwell could perform the miracle to elevate this movie from the usual Hillary sad-sack story into something more thrilling. Unfortunately, this is not such miracle.

It is the story of a very unhappy family with nine children and a trashy mother – two of those children growing up wild and loose, committing petty crimes. Then Kenny – played by Rockwell – graduates into big crime, allegedly murdering and robbing a neighbor. It is never clear whether he committed the crime, even if it seemed quite likely.

Despite evidence against him, his sister Betty played by Swank, embarks in a crazy crusade to prove his innocence. Based on nothing else than her belief in his innocent. She studies to become a lawyer, while at the same time destroying her own marriage and personal life. Very stubbornly (and rather selfishly) Betty pursues her only goal, tramping over the lives of her husband and children.

Finally, Kenny is acquitted, mainly because DNA tests of the evidence cast doubt on his conviction. But it is a far cry from stating he was innocent. His acquittal belongs to the dubious realm of guilt (or innocence) which cannot be proved or disproved.

Anyway, guilty or innocent, he is portrayed as an utterly unpleasant character and not much more pleasant is his sister Betty. Stubborn, unreasonable, narrow-minded, self-righteous she is made of weird stuff for a heroines. In the end, it is very hard to feel much sympathy either for her or her brother, despite the fact she made it through college for such a narrow goal.
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Emotionally engaging with a powerful cast
chrismsawin22 October 2010
On the surface, Conviction seems like a very mixed bag. There had been little to no promotion for it out here while the trailer hadn't really been attached to any recent screenings. I do recall seeing a trailer for the film one time online months ago, but that's it. Truth be told, that's usually the best way to see a film. No scene has the chance to be overplayed because you had seen the trailer however many times. Conviction is very much an independent film and is borderline nonexistent even though it had a limited release last week. The result was not only an extremely emotional and powerful film, but Conviction also features some of the strongest performances of the year.

The dramatic film jumps around in time right from the beginning. We're shown the horrific aftermath of Katharina Brow's gruesome murder and then jump back to the present day where we see Betty Anne visiting Kenneth in prison. Soon after that, we travel back into the past where we're shown the adult lives of Betty Anne and Kenneth. They're very much a part of each other's lives even when they both have families of their own to worry about. Kenneth's run ins with the law become more frequent as he seems to be picked up whenever the law is broken in Ayer, Massachusetts. Then, we jump even further back into the past during Betty Anne and Kenneth's childhood. They were very close even at that age, but they didn't live normal lives. They were stealing, trespassing, and breaking and entering at an early age. The time jumps were kind of infrequent and abrupt; they seemed to just happen at whim but provided quite a bit of background history about Betty Anne and Kenneth that was crucial to the overall story.

I'm honestly not a fan of Hilary Swank. She's just never done anything for me. The main point of interest for me was Sam Rockwell. Ever since his magnificent performance in last year's Moon, I've been trying to see as many of his films as possible and they very rarely disappoint. Conviction relies on the chemistry between Swank and Rockwell though. The whole movie wouldn't be anything without the connection those two have. Swank is incredibly family driven as the aftermath of her devoting most of her life to freeing her brother takes its toll on the rest of her life and her family. Rockwell is as fantastic as ever as just a simple expression on his face seems to say more about his character than any kind of reaction could, but his emotional outbursts are just as spectacular. Before he went to prison, Kenneth Waters seemed like a family man with a warm personality that cracked a lot of jokes but flew off the handle at the drop of a hat and lost control that usually resulted in a trip downtown. Prison is tearing him apart and it shows not only in Rockwell's performance but Swank's as well.

Conviction is one of the most effective dramas of the year that delivers an impact you'll be feeling long after you leave the theater. It takes you on a roller coaster of emotions that is well worth the ride. All the chips on the table lie in the hands of Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell while their on-screen presence alone seems to drive the film even when they're not saying anything. One of the best aspects of the film is that Betty Anne believes her brother is innocent and even when that comes into question, she doesn't want to hear any of it. Near the end of the film, it doesn't really seem to matter if Kenneth is innocent or not. Betty Anne believes it to be true and that's good enough for her. Her passion seems to be the underlying factor that drives the film. If you're looking for a film that feels heartfelt and genuine, then Conviction is a film you may want to look into.
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Conviction a story of family loyalty
Bob Bloom16 December 2010
CONVICTION: 2 ½ stars out of 4. Starring Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Minnie Driver and Melissa Leo. Directed by Tony Goldwyn. Rated: R, strong language, violent images In "Conviction," performances overcome the weaknesses and flaws in a story that is more gripping in real life than it is on the screen. The movie centers on the strong bond between Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank) and her brother, Kenny (Sam Rockwell), and the extraordinary efforts she undertakes to exonerate him from a gross miscarriage of justice. The movie scores in showing Waters' tenacity and determination to prove her brother, who is serving a life sentence, innocent of the murder for which he was convicted. To do so, this high school dropout decides to return to school, gets her GED then goes on to college and law school. This should be the most compelling part of the movie because Waters paid a hefty price to achieve her goal, costing her not only her marriage but also her children. Yet director Tony Goldwyn rushes through this part of the movie. Instead he concentrates on the efforts of Betty Anne, her friend and fellow lawyer, Abra Rice (Minnie Driver), and the head of The Innocence Project to overturn Kenny's conviction. And while this makes for interesting viewing, it also is rather formulaic as we have seen this scenario many times before. The heart of the movie, though, is the unwavering devotion between Betty Anne and Kenny, who were raised in the most harrowing of circumstances and yet survived by clinging to each other and watching each other's backs. Their fierce relationship and unconditional love are what keeps you riveted to the screen. At times "Conviction" is superficial, especially when dealing with Betty Anne's personal life, and manipulative — Goldwyn does everything but paint a black mustache on the wonderful Melissa Leo as the small-town police officer whose investigation helped convict Kenny — but the sincerity of the cast is what draws you in. Swank is bulldog-tenacious albeit a bit too self-sacrificing as Betty Anne. Driver brings a sense of humor and street smarts to her role as Rice, while Juliette Lewis steals her one big scene as a trashy ex-girlfriend of Kenny whose perjured testimony helped convict him. But the movie belongs to Rockwell as the swaggering, irresponsible Kenny. He is someone aimlessly drifting through life. He is tough and cocky, but underneath his rough exterior beats a good heart. Rockwell's ability to display the many facets of Kenny should earn him a best supporting actor Oscar nomination. "Conviction" is flawed, yet still will draw an audience into its story. But because it shrugs off many intriguing aspects about Betty Anne's struggles, it fails to reach its potential as great cinema.
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"Conviction" Needs to Get Life
jgregg4229 October 2010
Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Minnie Driver, Melissa Leo and Juliette Lewis. That is the list of experienced actors and actresses heading up the true story of "Conviction." The 20-year story line exposes a corrupt legal system. With an outstanding cast and a poignant subject matter it is destined to deliver an emotional power house of a story. Right? It just has to. So why do I feel like I have seen yet another "innocent-man-is-wrongly-accused" movie?

I am confused on why the director (Tony Goldwyn) chose the opening shots that he did. The first scenes do stick in my memory. A lone camera walks through a seemingly empty trailer home in Ayer, Massachusetts in 1980 quietly showing us a gruesome murder scene.

Then we are shuffled ahead in time to see Kenny Waters (played by Rockwell) meeting with his sister Betty Anne (played by Swank) in prison. Then we are sent back in time to when Betty Anne is in her first year of law school. Maybe audiences who like to be confused will enjoy the opening. It didn't set any tone for the movie since it takes a straight shot to tell the rest of the story with a few wisely placed flashbacks.

We are taken back roughly to the 1960s showing the bond being developed between Kenny and Betty Anne as children. They come from a broken home and we learn that they only have each other in this twisted world.

Goldwyn tosses us into a bar where we see Kenny's violent, friendly and class clown traits all within five minutes. As an actor, Rockwell is a likable guy. He has a playful confidence about him that seems to win audiences over for the most part (i.e. his role as Chuck Barris in "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind"). The man that Rockwell portrays here also seems to be liked — not only by his sister but also by the police department in Ayer. Well, all except Nancy Taylor (played by Leo), an officer on the Ayer Police Department. We don't know why Nancy has it in for him. It would have helped if Nancy had a background telling us why she wanted to arrest Kenny so bad.

After a couple of years Kenny is arrested and tried for the murder in 1980. He is hauled off to prison because of the testimonies of his girlfriends (one of whom was supposedly assaulted by Kenny) and Taylor. After Kenny's suicide attempt in prison, Betty Anne dedicates the next 20 years of her life to obtain her GED, go to college to earn a law degree and to work on this one case to prove her brother's innocence.

Aside from the story line, the cast was a joy to watch. Where has Juliette Lewis been? It was good to see her for a brief time on screen. She does give a brilliant and humorous performance. Swank and Rockwell could possibly each earn an Oscar nod. Personally, I think Swank should earn an Oscar nod simply for rising out of bed in the morning.

I am still torn on why I don't have anything more than a middle ground feeling for Kenny or Betty Anne considering the actual court case or the performances. Maybe it's because I didn't connect with Kenny's plight. Innocent or not, it seemed as if he was headed for trouble. Not "murder" trouble but trouble nonetheless.

Maybe it's because there was a woman who was murdered in 1980 and I don't know anything about the actual victim. I am sure her life was just as important as Kenny's life.

Should you see this movie? Your Honor, I would like to cite precedent of "The Hurricane" or even, ahem, "An Innocent Man." We have seen most of this film before in one way or another. Your Honor, if you haven't seen those legalese movies or a similar "an-innocent-man-is-jailed-and-the-legal-system-is-corrupt" movie then please make a motion to see "Conviction."
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In spite of an excellent cast and an uplifting story, the film is "DOA"
amyjomarsh14 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Going in I knew what the story was about, a woman who completes her education to free the brother who she believes was wrongly convicted of murder. I'd read that Waters, (Swank's character) finishes high school and college and goes to law school; there is a passing comment about her getting her GED, we then see a classroom filled with people younger than she; the professor calls on her and asks, "What is a contract?"...all of a sudden she's in law school? Swank is married, and has two children, we don't know what the husband does, but if her clothes are any indication, he's doing okay. She and her husband are having problems, on a visit to her brother in prison, she's not wearing her wedding band; in a later scene she is wearing it, subsequently they divorce. At this point their two sons are probably 11 and 13, four years later they're still the same size. These are just a few of the things that really annoyed me about the film, coupled with a running time of an hour and forty five minutes during which flaws in a more tightly edited film would not have been nearly as glaring.
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the American way of life: injustice. And the story between a brother and a sister.
Karl Ericsson4 August 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Seeing this film you stop to wonder how many innocent cases there are where the sibling does not become a lawyer to put things right.

The American legal system, so this film tells us, is so complicated that you need to be a lawyer to operate it. In that it does not differ much from other legal systems operating today, however, so it seems, the American system is more dependent on money or personal sacrifice in order to get to some sort of justice.

This is a depressing tale in spite of its "good" outcome where some justice is indeed done. However, in the closing text I did see no mention of a multimillion settlement against the state and only a mention that the police officer who was most responsible for the injustice, fabricating evidence etc, did not get convicted on account of some technicality of law.

What makes this film excellent though, is that it hints on a fact to often neglected, the fact that the victim reproaches itself for the wrongdoings committed against it. This is done in order to survive injustice, which can otherwise not be survived. The victim must see itself as guilty somehow, otherwise its life becomes unbearable.

If therefore somebody appears to be guilty like when you get a gut feeling there is something wrong or the like - then be very careful! That gut feeling can be totally wrong and just stemming from the victim's survival instinct of victimizing itself to make its world livable.

That is also the chief reason why we have to fight for justice. People go around thinking that it is quite OK that there exists poor people and rich people and not as it should be where everybody has the same.

Every child born to this earth knows that total material equality is the only thing that can be accepted but as it grows up and is faced with seeing some people having a thousand times more than other people it tells itself that this is OK, because if it was not it could not survive. It's definitely time that we flushed that garbage down the toilet!!!
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