By MICHAEL WALTERS
“Conviction” is a predictable piece of Oscar bait that unfortunately wastes a fine cast by telling its real life drama with a minimum of flair or originality. Hillary Swank stars as Betty Anne Waters, a high school dropout and housewife. When her brother (Sam Rockwell) is arrested and then convicted of murder based on what she thinks is some shoddy police work she devotes her life to overturning her brother’s murder conviction. So she puts herself through high school, college, and law school while working the case and juggling two kids and a husband.
Swank gives an adequate performance, but it seems like she’s playing a type from her plucky individualist heroine repotoire, not an actual person. Minnie Driver aquits herself nicely as Waters law school friend who lends a hand as they look for mistakes in the small town police department’s case.
But Sam Rockwell is the real standout as her brother. He’s no angel, but he’s no killer either. And in his handful of scenes he manages to rise above the standard tearjerker material to dig deep into his character’s frustrations, and dashed hopes as he waits behind bars for a day he fears may never come. It’s a testament to his work that you actually believe his future is in doubt in these scenes, because the outcome of the film is readily apparent almost from the opening credits. The story hits all the predictable beats as Swank devotes all her time to this single-minded quest and risks losing her entire family in the process.
Films like this need superb craftmanship to make up for the lack of compelling drama, and this one is competent but undistinguished. What we get is essentially a very expensive Lifetime movie that makes the time go by but lacks any real heart.
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