Because they couldn't depend on their parents, Betty Anne Waters (Swank) and her older brother Kenny (Rockwell) were inseparable as children. Betty Anne eventually married and had two boys, but hothead Kenny always got into scrapes with the law and a series of dubious women. One such scrape leads him to be accused of brutally murdering a German woman and Kenny is sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. Betty Anne is adamant her brother is innocent and, even though her marriage suffers, enrols in college to study law to help prove her brother's innocence.
Based on a true story, Conviction never really escapes the made-for-TV shadow that looms large over the movie (other titles could well have been Search For Justice: The Betty Anne Waters Story or Wrongly Accused: The Kenny Waters Story). Director Tony Goldwyn (The Last Kiss) and writer Pamela Gray (Music Of The Heart) are at pains throughout to hammer home the heart of the movie: the tight bond between brother and sister. Director and writer seem to be aware of the formulaic plotting and invest a lot of time in the characters, dotting the movie with flashbacks to their childhood with hopes that the close nature of the siblings will drag the audience's attention over the finishing line. They were right - they do. If Goldwyn (son of movie mogul Sam) and Gray had invested more time in the ambiguity over Kenny's innocence, Conviction would have fared better. However, as what happened in The Next Three Days, questions over his guilt are dismissed all too quickly - it's deemed that the audience's sympathy for a hero's plight would be lost if there are misgivings over his innocence. It's very black and white.
If it weren't for Swank and Rockwell, Conviction would be a completely forgettable slice of legal melodrama. Swank's steely determination to see this through to the end when everyone around her has given up hope, even Kenny, is easy to get on board. Rockwell, if given more screen time, would overshadow even Swank's commendable turn: his Kenny is a ball of nervous energy and there's no telling when he's going to snap. Kudos too to Juliette Lewis, who, even though has only two scenes, is remarkable as a broken-toothed, drunken trailer trash.
Story by Gavin Burke | 09:00 | Tuesday 31st May 2011 | DVD review
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