I definitely know that my little bro would not do this for me that little bastard.
Convinced that her brother, Kenneth (Sam Rockwell), has been unjustly convicted of murder and incompetently defended by court-ordered attorneys, high school dropout Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank) puts herself through law school in order to represent him in his appeal.
Last year I was supposed to see this at a press screening but for some odd reason, never actually got to it, so I just ended up waiting for it to one day pop-up. When it finally did, I kind of felt bummed by what I missed.
This story here is a true under-dog story that usually gets schmaltzy and feels like a “made for TV” film but somehow director Tony Goldwyn makes it better than just that. The story telling here was not easy to pull off because it all takes place in 16 years of visitations, back-story, courtroom dramas, and marriage problems but Goldwyn does well when it comes to setting up a pace and sticking to it well.
However, where this film fails is within it’s right to actually keep me glued into the story even when I knew all that was going to happen. Right from the get-go, I knew what was going to happen, but then again so did everybody else who watched this and I mean even though its pretty formulaic and predictable it was still fun to watch, but with barely any surprises.
The problem with this film though is that I feel like they had a lot to say about the judicial system and how they are not always right but for some reason, this film only went down that road about twice and that was it. I think with the type of material they had here and the constant showing of mishaps with the actual courtroom system and how evidence is handled and whatnot, that they could have said a lot while still being able to tug at our heart-strings, but only mildly does both.
The real strength of this film though is the cast at hand, and let’s just say it’s a pretty-looking bunch we got here. Hillary Swank is good here as Betty Anne Waters but my problem with her was that her character just has the same look on her face the whole time, and didn’t really give us any real reason to care about her. This wasn’t Swank’s fault but the script could have helped her more. Minnie Driver is also good as the smart-assed best friend of Betty; Peter Gallagher is awesome as Barry Scheck and just had me staring at his eye-brows the whole time; and Mellisa Leo, Juliette Lewis, and Ari Graynor chew up some good scenery as well.
The whole cast is good but compared to Sam Rockwell as Kenny, they are totally forgettable. Rockwell plays up all the charm and humor that he always puts into his performances but he also puts in a great deal of sadness and depression that this character goes through while he’s in prison. Since we only see him through the visitations at the prison, it would be incredibly hard to develop a character solely on that but Rockwell is great at keeping our attention on him the whole entire time.
Consensus: Conviction features plenty of good performances from the cast, especially Sam Rockwell as Kenny, but too much of it feels like the usual, under-dog story we get on cable and in the end, feels like a film that could have went more for the gut than the heart but instead chooses the latter.