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CONVICTION (director: Tony Goldwyn; screenwriter: Pamela Gray; cinematographer: Adriano Goldman; editor: Jay Cassidy; music: Paul Cantelon; cast: Hilary Swank (Betty Anne Waters), Sam Rockwell (Kenny Waters), Minnie Driver (Abra Rice), Melissa Leo (Nancy Taylor), Peter Gallagher (Barry Scheck), Ari Graynor (Mandy Marsh), Loren Dean (Rick), Conor Donovan (Richard), Owen Campbell (Ben), Tobias Campbell (Young Kenny), Bailee Madison (Young Betty Anne), Clea DuVall (Brenda Marsh), Karen Young (Elizabeth Waters), Talia Balsam (Prosecuting Attorney), John Pyper-Ferguson (Aidan), Juliette Lewis (Roseanna Perry); Runtime: 106; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Andrew Sugerman/Andrew S. Karsch/Tony Goldwyn; Fox Searchlight Pictures; 2010)
“Unimaginative film.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Tony Goldwyn (“A Walk on the Moon“/”Someone Like You”), whose grandpa was the noted movie mogul Sam Goldwyn,bases his drama on a true story, nevertheless it seems like a hackneyed cable movie of the week. Writer Pamela Gray fills the story with more cliches than any pic should have. It seems like it’s more of an inspirational sports movie than the tense drama it’s supposed to be about seeking justice after a false imprisonment.

Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank) is victim of being raised by a neglectful mom (Karen Young) in a small town in Massachusetts, which resulted in her being a high school drop-out and raised in a foster home along with her unruly, ne’er-do-well, hot-tempered brother Kenny Waters (Sam Rockwell). The close-knit brother and sister were two of nine children sired by seven different fathers that mom played around with.

In 1982, Kenny is charged with the 1980 brutal murder of an elderly German woman neighbor, living in a trailer; and in 1983 is given a life sentence. Betty Ann is convinced that her brother is innocent despite the mounting circumstantial evidence and that her brother never said he’s innocent. Unfortunately Kenny is an unsympathetic character, and has made many enemies because of his rotten attitude and previous wild behavior. Local female cop Nancy Taylor (Melissa Leo) is the source of ridicule by Kenny, and sis is convinced she had a part in the justice system railroading her brother.

In her determination to free her brother from his life sentence, sis works her way through law school at the expense of ignoring her two sons (Owen Campbell and Conor Donovan) and long-suffering hubby. They split and he gains control of the boys when they say they prefer staying with dad.

Betty Anne has renewed hope when she learns of DNA evidence now being used to overturn older cases, and eighteen years after the sentencing, when becoming a lawyer, receives help in presenting the new evidence from her caring law school classmate (Minnie Driver) and celebrity lawyer Barry Scheck (Peter Gallagher).

The unimaginative film, with some decent performances by the leads, fails to be gripping because it’s tediously directed and written. If it weren’t a true story you would think it was just a contrivance. Though not shown in the film, Kenny was released from prison in March 2001 and died six months later after he fractured his skull in a fall.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”