MOVIE: *1/2 (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Back in the early 1980s, Kenneth Waters (Sam Rockwell) was convicted of murder. His sister Betty Anne (Hilary Swank) never believed he was guilty and suspected he was framed by the police and prosecutor. After exhausting every reasonable possibility to free her brother, Betty Anne goes to extremes to get a law degree and continue working as his lawyer to free him.
WHAT I LIKED
Every year in the fall and winter, we see a bunch of films that exist for no other reason than to hopefully earn someone an Oscar. Last year, Hilary Swank made a woefully unsuccessful attempt at this with “Amelia.” This year, it was “Conviction.”
While I have plenty of problems with this film (see below for more on that), I will admit that the performances were quite good, even if the characters weren’t already a bit over-the-top. And like any story of human struggle, it seems more powerful when the events play out.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
“Conviction” is the perfect example of Oscar bait. It has pretty much every cliche for Oscar season you’re likely to see. It’s a true story. It’s a family struggle. We see characters yelling at each other, with the actor’s giving their all to a hopeful Oscar clip. We see the main character get so upset in multiple scenes that she falls down in grief, screams at nothing or just throws things around. And with both “The Town” and “The Fighter” aiming for real awards this season, it has now become a cliche for everyone in the film to have a thick Massachusetts accent.
Director Tony Goldwyn, who isn’t a bad actor but often lays it on too thick from behind the camera, doesn’t handle anything delicately or subtly here. There’s an attempt to show the closeness of Kenny and Betty Anne with flashbacks of them as kids and as adults bonding in a bar. But these do more to make the characters dismissive as white trash and unlikable.
Finally, as admirable as it is for someone to literally give their life and career to help someone who cannot help himself, it annoyed me that (at least the character in the film) Betty Anne neglected her own children and marriage for the sake of her brother. Like the film “Flash of Genius” several years ago, in which the main character destroys his marriage to prove a claim in court, this shows misplaced love at the very least.
When a film like this, which I’m not wild about, comes out on Blu-ray and DVD, I hold out hope for at least a nice selection of special features. A year ago, I considered “Amelia” a definite stinker, but at least it had some nice historic bonus material.
Sadly, “Conviction” has only a single special feature, which is a conversation with director Tony Goldwyn and the real Betty Anne Waters. Sure, this is interesting, but I really hoped for more, particularly something more objective to look at the original case.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
People who like Oscar-bait dramas.