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Wow conviction is definitely a deeply moving film and very well acted
by Hilary Swank, Minnie Driver and Juliette Lewis. However Sam Rockwell
is the one who really shines in Conviction. He plays his role as this
man who got wrongfully convicted of murder, really raw and powerful.
His character had many different emotions in this film. He had to
express many different emotional feelings in the role. He had to be
angry, sad, and happy and he portrayed it very well. If he doesn't get
an Oscar nomination for this film, I'd be truly surprised if he doesn't
get his recognition, he is severely underrated, so much so that it
actually angers me, that the Academy doesn't recognize Sam Rockwell
because he is definitely overdue for an Oscar nomination or win.
Loyalty: It something we all expect from our loved ones, but we so
rarely receive. How loyal would our families be if we were convicted of
a crime we were innocent of and sent to prison for the rest of lives?
Would they put all their worldly desires away to do everything in their
power to see to our injustice? I dare say that I know that it takes a
special few that have such perseverance or such conviction.
Hilary Swank stars in the film so aptly titled Conviction. Here again Swank portrays the real-life Betty Ann Waters. Betty Ann's brother, Kenny was convicted of a violent murder in their home town in Massachusetts and sent to prison in 1983. Betty Ann and Kenny grew up in a dysfunctional home and were tossed around to a plethora of foster homes during their childhood and adolescence. The only family they had was each other. Their relationship was so close and intimate that there was no doubt in her mind that her brother was incapable of murder. Kenny was a self-admitted bad boy. He had been arrested so many times in their small community that when Kenny's neighbor turned up murdered it seemed to be an easy assumption that Kenny was the perpetrator of the crime.
Betty Ann had no money for high-paid lawyers and when Kenny tries to kill himself in prison, she came up with a solution to their problem. She will go to college, then law school and then become a lawyer and find the evidence to set her brother free. This sound like a plot made-up in a studio office, but it is the true story of this amazing woman. And, there would be no movie, if Betty Ann's astounding story didn't have a happy ending.
Telling this story is difficult. But the even script by Pamela Gray provides a good point of departure for Tony Goldwyn's direction and the moving performances by the actors. Without hesitation, Hilary Swank is definitely back, her disappointing performance as Amelia Earhart last year could have ended her trip down the red carpet to win Oscar gold forever. Her performance playing Betty Ann is subtle and convincing. But it's not just Hilary Swank's performance that should be noted. Sam Rockwell's portrayal of Kenny Waters is amazing and heart-wrenching. His scenes in prison are remarkable as he so effortlessly depicts the wide range of emotions from complete hopelessness when years of imprisonment wear on him to utter joy when he learns that his sister has done the impossible. And lastly, Minnie Driver makes a great impression playing Betty Ann's law school friend. It's a role that could garner attention at award time, and hopefully will lead to more roles in the future.
Conviction is one of the best films of the year. Its story of never-ending loyalty and love of a sister. It is inspirational and uplifting. This film will make you believe again, that with desire, perseverance and the conviction to never stop trying, almost anything is possible.
For more reviews and news written by Kay Shackleton, see here: www.examiner.com/movie-awards-in-national
After making decidedly wrong turns into rom-com in 2007's "P.S. I Love
You" and historical biopic in 2009's "Amelia", Hilary Swank is back in
her element as Betty Ann Waters, a working-class single mother of two
whose fierce loyalty to her troublemaking brother Kenny knows no
bounds, in actor/director Tony Goldwyn's time-spanning, fact-based 2010
drama. Written by Pamela Gray (she and Goldwyn also collaborated on
1999's affecting "A Walk on the Moon"), the inspiring, potentially
melodramatic plot line often borders on incredulity, but Swank's
trademark iron-jawed tenacity is on full display here. At the same
time, it's a primarily economic performance teetering on lunacy as her
character is tightly bound to Kenny since they shared a painful
childhood due to the neglect of a horrifying mother.
In 1983, Kenny is convicted of the bloody murder of an elderly neighbor largely on the basis of testimony from two former girlfriends, both of whom claimed he confessed his actions to them. Neither Kenny nor Betty Anne can afford a good attorney, so she decides to become a lawyer even though she's a high school dropout. Also serving as one of the film's executive producers, Swank come back securely to the against-all-odds territory of Clint Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby" (2004) by following Betty Ann's sixteen-year journey from her GED through college, then law school, and finally passing the bar all while she was raising two boys and working part-time at a local pub. The ending is predictable from a mile away, but the journey is not. The introduction of DNA evidence provides a linchpin that spins the story close to Lifetime-level dramatics, especially when Betty Ann solicits the assistance of the Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization devoted to overturning wrongful convictions. Gray's screenplay is solid enough, and Goldwyn's direction is assured within the back-and-forth treatment of the timeline.
However, it's really the acting that is aces here. Beyond Swank's sterling work, Sam Rockwell brings an unpredictable furor and a surprising vulnerability to the showier role of Kenny. His rapport with Swank never feels forced, and the devotion of their sibling relationship is what really grounds the threat of hysterics in the film. The periphery is populated by a powerful squad of actresses turning in sharply etched work - Minnie Driver as Betty Ann's law-school friend Abra, whose comic spark highlights how pivotal her character is in representing the audience viewpoint; Melissa Leo ("Frozen River") as the malevolent arresting cop, whose secretive hostility provides the impetus for Kenny's conviction; Juliette Lewis as Kenny's dentally-challenged ex-girlfriend with a drunken confession scene that reveals the actress's long-forgotten raw talent below her usual giddiness; Karen Young in a brief scene as the unforgivable Mrs. Waters; and Ari Graynor ("Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist") as Kenny's embittered grown daughter. It's the cast's cumulative work that makes this movie intensely watchable.
"Conviction" is a simple, dramatic story, told well. Betty Anne (Hilary
Swank) puts herself through law school for the sole effort of freeing
her innocent brother Kenny (Sam Rockwell) from a life-sentence in
prison for murder. Swank and Rockwell both carry this emotional film on
their very strong shoulders.
There are very few courtroom scenes, very few law school scenes, but it is filled with emotional connections between brother and sister as she visits him in prison, and as she tries living her own life. The characters dominate the beginning of the film, and the steps Swank has to take to free Rockwell keeps the film going towards the end.
It is shot well, as this is clearly Massachusetts and it set the right feelings for the film without overpowering it. The highlights are Swank and Rockwell as they both play characters with elements that we have seen before that have given Swank Oscar wins and have given Rockwell popularity. Here, he has toned down his comic antics just enough for his performance to remain popular but should also give him his first Oscar nomination.
The story may be missing a few elements that would have given it more substance to make it more interesting, but it seems to me, that's because the film-makers had a few restrictions in keeping to the true story. This may actually be a true story and not just based on one.
I recommend "Conviction" for its emotional performances and for telling its simple story well.
(Synopsis) Conviction is based on an inspiring true story of Betty Anne
Waters (Hilary Swank), a high school dropout who over 18-years put
herself through law school to represent and hopefully overturn her
innocent brother's, Kenny Waters (Sam Rockwell), murder conviction.
Betty Anne is a working mother of two boys who believes that her
brother was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to life in prison for a
1980 bloody murder of a woman living in a trailer next door to him in
Ayer, Massachusetts. Kenny's ability to appeal his conviction using
public defenders has been exhausted and without a lawyer, he will die
in prison. That is when Betty Anne decides to dedicate her life to save
her brother. With a newly earned law degree in hand, she hopes to
exonerate her brother with new evidence and the new science of DNA.
(My Comment) This is a story of what a devoted and inseparable loving sister can do for her brother when he needs her most. Their family bond for each other, while growing up on a farm, is stronger than any prison can break. The movie shows Betty Anne Waters' commitment in freeing her brother as the only thing that will make her life complete. The struggles she endures to become a lawyer, and her willpower to save her brother from any further pain is inspirational. The bond between Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell seems very real, including the steps that she takes as an obsessed lawyer to set him free. Their performances were brilliant, and I believe that both of them will be nominated for an Oscar. This is a movie to see. Footnote: The Innocence Project using DNA matching since 1989 has freed over 254 innocent people from prison in the United States. (Fox Searchlight Pictures, Run Time 1:46, Rated R) (8/10)
This type of film has been done before, but I don't seem to get sick of
the subject. But I wish things like this never happened, to rot in a
cell for something you did not do must be hell. I believe in justice,
but feel most justice systems are flawed. Democracy comes with a price
for some, and this story smashes that home! Us common people will be
swallowed up in legal rules and regulations when facing an uphill
battle like this, and unless you have the financial means, or in the
case of this story a sister that will go to the end of the world and
back, some people will be found guilty until proved innocent.
This film has a great cast to bring home this great story, and it makes for compelling viewing. I am still to see a role that Sam Rockwell fills that I don't care for, he has been a great actor in so many solid films.
10 out of 10 as the film picks you up at the beginning, get's you involved, makes you feel part of the pain caused by the legal system, even with you knowing the out come of the story line.
CONVICTION CATCH IT (A-) Conviction is a Heart Hitting True story of a sister fighting for her Brother for 18 years to get Justice. I must say more than movie, the story in itself is simply heart wrenching so, I really applaud for the director, producers for choosing such an incredible true story to be told on screen. The only flaw in the movie was its length and sometimes I found the editing of flashbacks little irritating. The performances in the movie are truly incredible and every time I saw Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell, it brought tears in my eyes. The chemistry between these two actors is amazingly genuine and real. Even the young Brother and Sister played by Bailee Madison and Tobias Campbell had an awesome chemistry and it made the whole movie very relatable. Melissa Leo, Minnie Driver and Elle Bardha did a respectable job. One of the shocking performances in the movie is indeed from Juliet Lewis, who was outstanding in her 10mintutes role. My jaws were literally dropped to see her in middle aged role. You have to see to believe how good she was, I won't be shock if she gets an Oscar Nod for that. Overall, it's an inspiring tale of how far a Sister can go for her Brother, to get Justice. Truly Inspiring.
In Ayer, Massachusetts, the siblings Betty Anne and Kenneth 'Kenny'
Waters are very close to each other and they are neglected by their
single mother and prostitute Elizabeth Waters (Karen Young).
In their come of age, Kenny (Sam Rockwell) is a troublemaker with a baby daughter hated by the local police department and Betty Anne (Hilary Swank) gets married and has two sons. When their neighbor is stabbed to death, the police officer Nancy Taylor (Melissa Leo) that has hatred for Kenny, arrests him and he is sent to court for trial.
Kenny and Betty Anne can not afford to hire a lawyer and Kenny is defended by a public defender. He is sentenced to life without probation, based on the evidence of his blood type and the testimony of his girlfriends Brenda Marsh (Clea DuVall) and Roseanna Perry (Juliette Lewis).
When Kenny tries to commit suicide in prison, his sister tells him that she will complete her elementary school and high-school to go to law school to reopen his case and overturn his sentence.
"Conviction" is the best courtroom drama of the Twentieth-First Century. The inspiring story of a waitress that decides to study to become a lawyer to defend her beloved and innocent brother that was sentenced to life without probation and release him after twenty years is one of the most beautiful examples of dedication, determination, devotion and fraternal love.
The top-notch performances of Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell and Juliette Lewis deserved nomination to the Oscar. The tragic and ironic fate of Kenny six months after his freedom is not mentioned in the film that stops the journey of the Waters family in the best moments of their lives. My vote is nine.
Title (Brazil): "A Condenação" ("The Conviction")
I've been wanting to watch Tony Goldwyn's 'Conviction' for a long time.
Now movies like this have been done before. While there is the story of
'guilty until proved innocent' but what makes this one stand out is the
authenticity with which the brother-sister relationship is portrayed.
One doesn't see many Hollywood movies explore sibling relationships
unless it's in the form of mockery like 'Stepbrothers'. There are but a
very few exceptions like Kenneth Lonergan's beautiful 'You Can Count On
Swank and Rockwell are very convincing as sister and brother. Their on screen interlude appears very natural and this only makes Betty Anne's determination to prove her brother's innocence all the more believable. Needless to say, both actors are at their best and they are supported wonderfully by Melissa Leo (who plays a bent copper), Juliette Lewis (she seems to have mastered playing trailer-trash characters), Clea Duvall (the lying wife), Minnie Driver (the charming friend) and Peter Gallagher.
One can easily relate to Swank's Betty Anne struggling with the bureaucratic legal system and her drive to free her brother. Unless one has money or the right contacts, one can recognize the situations where Betty Anne is passed over from one administration to another.
'Conviction' is a compelling watch. It involves the viewer right from the very beginning and even though you can predict the ending, it's Betty Anne and Kenny's faith in each other that keeps you hooked.
Difficult to write anything negative about such an triumphant story.
The New York Times ran an touching article October last year regarding
the real-life story of Betty Anne Waters, a single-mom who put herself
through college and law school to exonerate her brother. Much has also
been said about the incredible performances of Hillary Swank and Sam
Rockwell, but supporting roles from Minnie Driver and Melissa Leo (I'm
glad she's getting recognition since Homicide Life on the Street) are
no less vibrant. So why the average rating?
The level of drama does not rise above Hallmark Made-for-TV movies. The plot, story pacing, and overall tone of the film are very one- dimensional. There are too few moments where we see these characters interact on any level that's not (melo)dramatic. My favorites scene involves Minnie Driver and Hillary Swank shopping for groceries. It's the only time these characters feel real.
I keep thinking Conviction has the premise of a David E. Kelley TV series, where the Kenny-theme could serve as a season long arc. The characters are interesting enough, but I was hoping for so much more. Conviction is by no means a bad film, but it's not a very good one either.
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