Directed by: Tony Goldwyn Cast: Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell Running Time: 1 hr 43 mins Rating: R Due Out: February 1st, 2011
PLOT: A working mother puts herself through law school in an effort to represent her brother, who has been wrongfully convicted of murder and has exhausted his chances to appeal his conviction through public defenders.
WHO'S IT FOR? Those who enjoy tales of "the little guy" overcoming daunting odds en route to successfully fighting "the system."
MOVIE: I suppose it would be par for the movie-critic course, that I should rave here about how excited I was to see Swank in another meaty dramatic role, but after Amelia, Black Dhalia and even Million Dollar Baby (yes, I’m one of the rare few who didn’t like it) I can’t say that I was too terribly excited.
I was actually looking forward to seeing this film though, if for nothing else than the presence of Sam Rockwell. His performance in Moon completely won me over. Rockwell is brilliantly cast here, as he’s made a career of playing characters split between charisma and menace — perfect for a man wrongfully convicted.
The film’s trailer was pretty near destroyed by Steve Jablonsky’s plundered score, lifted directly from The Island. It’s an amazing song, in The Island. Avatar, Flyboys, and others have used the exact same song, ad nauseam. Having an overly pilfered song from The Island crop up in Conviction’s trailer, doesn’t say much about Paul Cantelon’s Conviction score, or maybe it says a lot -- in the end, I can't say that the score felt many notches above derivative.
The craftsmanship here was otherwise solid -- the acting, the script, the pacing, and the cinematography were all adequate. Conviction felt like standard fare though, I found it to be highly predictable, and in the end it felt more like a high-quality made-for-TV movie than anything else. This makes perfect sense, after a quick tour of director Tony Goldwyn's imdb page, as prior to Conviction all of his directorial work was done strictly in the realm of televsion.
I do wish that Goldwyn had taken a different approach to the "incredible true story of Betty Anne Waters," and had played more as to the potential guilt or innocence of Rockwell's imprisoned character. I felt slighted in knowing that Rockwell's character was innocent from the get go (based on the spoiler-ridden marketing of the film), and I was a bit annoyed in knowing the happy outcome of the film beforehand as well. Conviction could have been so much better if they had better played to Rockwell's strengths, and left the audience wondering, "but is he really innocent?" It was a shame knowing the answer to that question from the start, and knowing such made Betty Anne Waters into a fairly one-dimensional, even super-human caricature.
This film, all in all, was not bad, but it wasn't really all that good either.
MOVIE SCORE: 5/10
A Conversation with Tony Goldwyn and Betty Anne Waters