Annette Bening can breathe a sigh of relief, because two time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank will not be her big competitor this year in the best actress Oscar race. Conviction is a compelling story, based on real people and true events. The cast is impressive, but under the direction of actor turned director Tony Goldwyn, it unfortunately ends up like a Lifetime movie. Swank has become one of the most respected actors of our time, she has the ability to transform herself into a role and let it consume her. In both of her Oscar winning roles she played characters that audiences cared for and felt sorry for, here she plays one of her most unlikeable characters, even though she is involved in a good cause.  

 In 1983 during the funeral for their father, Betty Ann Waters (Swank) is shocked when her brother Kenny (Rockwall) is arrested and charged for murder. The local Massachusetts police have built a case against him, with all kinds of evidence including blood and the murder weapon. Sentenced to life in prison, Betty Ann makes a promise to get him out and begins a course for a GED, bachelor’s degree and will then apply to law school so she might appeal, represent him and revisit the DNA used in the trial. 16 years it takes her to get prepared, with dead ends and lots of revelations, her husband leaves her, her kids worry she has become obsessed with her brothers case, but nothing will stop her from proving Kenny is innocent.

 If you compare the tenacity of Betty Ann Waters and Erin Brockovich, what’s the real difference? They both put their job or goals before their families, they both give everything for a cause, but Brockovich played by Julia Roberts was smart, witty, and while both of these women have a temper, when Swank’s Waters doesn’t get her way she throws an immature temper tantrum. Goldwyn doesn’t allow Swank the emotion or stamina needed to make the audience love her, because we admire what she is doing for her brother, but we also see her disregarding her family especially her boys. Goldwyn fails to dig into the struggle; instead it’s a play by play of the events, often times skipping over scenes or events that could have been used to deepen the audience bond with the characters (i.e. when Waters sons move out to live with their father, after they drive away, we see Waters fall on her knees from the curb side, where was the close up?).

 The colorful supporting actors do help the film, especially Oscar nominee Juliette Lewis and her rotten teeth. She may only have two scenes, but it wouldn’t shock me if her sleazy drunken character landed a supporting Oscar nomination. The winning performance, the one you will remember is Sam Rockwell (The Green Mile, Iron Man 2); we see a color wheel of emotion from his character; partying in the beginning, to attempted suicide, finally an aged unsettled man facing his eternity in prison. His character is difficult to read and that’s what makes him more interesting, Rockwell plays him on edge but we are always aware of his soft side. As investigative courtroom type dramas go we have seen better and worse. Good intentions get credit here, but it’s nowhere near the uprising feel good movie of the year we want it to be.

 Final Thought – Swank is overshadowed by Rockwell.

Grade B-     By: Dustin Chase W.      Editor: Jennifer Gih