Conviction Movie Review
After a tough childhood in rural Massachusetts, Betty Anne Waters (Swank) has always been very close to her hot-headed brother Kenny (Rockwell). So when he's arrested for a vicious murder, she refuses to believe that he's guilty. After all of the appeals fail, she enrols in law school as a mature student and, with the help of fellow lawyer Abra (Driver) and evidence expert Barry (Gallagher), seeks to challenge Kenny's conviction with new DNA evidence. But this isn't nearly as simple as it sounds.
The events at the heart of this film are gripping, and director Goldwyn tells the story without many flourishes beyond offering us frequent flashbacks to the Waters' youth, plus glimpses of previous events from new perspectives. While Gray's script bristles with righteous anger, it also tries to keep us guessing about Kenny's innocence or guilt, which doesn't let us identify properly with Betty Anne. Since this is a true story, we pretty much know already, so the whole story is undermined by what's essentially a red herring.
What makes the film worth a look is the cast, and the actors deliver raw performances that give the characters' a vivid soulfulness. Swank holds our attention with solid turn as a steely woman who takes on the system against all personal odds. And Rockwell, Driver and Gallagher are also excellent in roles that are full of surprises. Meanwhile, the film is packed with scene-stealing smaller roles for the gifted likes of Lewis (best she's been in years), Leo and DuVall.
As it goes along, the story dips a little too easily into sentimental melodrama, although this also gives the actors plenty to chew on. And the premise itself contains a sharp look at how DNA evidence has changed the American legal system, offering objective information that can overturn a bad verdict. So if it's like a TV movie, at least it's like one that would win a shelf-load of Emmys.
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