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Conviction (2010 movie)

A Movie Directed by Tony Goldwyn

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A typical "true story" movie. Melodramatic, but well-acted.

  • Mar 5, 2011
** out of ****

Considering its only form of advertisement is selling itself out as being "based on a true story", "Conviction" actually isn't all that bad. There have been worse-much worse- and far more confusing films based on true events; and this one is no more or no less than the usual melodramatic go-around. With that being said, the film essentially leaves out all imagination and true, honest entertainment so that the stars can shine. This is a film with great performances, solid direction, but none of it is ever accompanied by a good script or anything particularly unique. Simply put; "Conviction" isn't interesting enough to be good. It's a pretty entertaining film for most of its running time, but if you want my personal take- then I'd say the drama just plain fails. It sucks; it really does. And the true story being told here only proves once again that not every true story can make for a breathtaking or original film. This film doesn't want to be the second thing; but in its own way, it seeks to be beautiful. But alas, it is not. It's not good, and it's not bad; thus leaving it stuck between mediocrity and near boredom. It's never truly a bore, but it's never truly fun either. As I said, it's well-acted. But when that's your only REAL redeeming factor, you know you're in trouble. So what I'm trying to say here is that the movie is just plain generic all-in-all. I would not recommend it for its mediocrity; but I would not refrain you from seeing it for the craft that went into it. Yes, there was craft. Sometimes, the film had these little moments which existed merely to entertain; and I liked that. But this movie should be a little more enjoyable; and it shouldn't have been told in such a cheesy, nigh unsatisfying way. And the ending sucks. The thing would have been the slightest bit more compelling if they would have shown the guy's unfortunate end; although this film plays it safer than it probably needs to. Yet there is something I admire about this film. It puts a mediocre premise to mediocre use. Sam Rockwell and Hilary Swank are put in two very fine roles. Yes, this film has some good parts. But nothing in it can accumulate to anything worth watching or remembering; and that's why "Conviction" is an easy skip from my end of the table.

You probably know the story; the TRUE story of Betty Anne Waters. If you know the story, then you will know that she attempted the impossible. Her brother Kenny was convicted of murder- a murder which Betty does not think he is rightfully guilty of- and she took it upon herself to get him out. He was to be locked away for life, so why wouldn't you want to save him the extra years of pain? So, Betty studies for Law School. She becomes a lawyer. She ponders the trial. And you probably know where it goes there. But enough about Betty; what do I think of Kenny? We do get to see Kenny before he is convicted, and we see him as a hyper yet kindly man. He's not a "good" man per se, but he's nowhere near a bad one. In one scene, we witness him having a good time dancing at a bar with his sis and his girl. A man insults him and his baby daughter when they accidentally bump into him, and he extracts revenge in his own way. He can be violent, but from the beginning, we know that it's VERY unlikely that a guy like him would murder an innocent woman. You probably know where the story goes from there, so I'm not going to spoil much more. If you want to take the time and watch this generic but undeniably entertaining film, then so be it. But it's nothing special, and it's not nearly as pleasant as it thinks it is. Nor is it powerful, memorable, or a recommendation from me personally. It does not have a great story, and it does not have great characters. Perhaps my biggest complaint is that the thing is just so darned familiar; and the characters...well, they're not character-less. But they're not well-developed either. If you put those two flaws together, you will no doubt get an uneven film.

Hilary Swank has had some good performances, and then she has had some bad ones (looking at you, "The Reaper"). I am indeed glad to assure you that she's actually pretty good in "Conviction". This is one performance that won't get her an Oscar (or a Razzie), and it's sort of in the middle there. It's content, and Swank never feels forced. For the first time in a damn good while; she's doing some mighty fine acting. That's good. That's great. In fact, that's wonderful. And her performance is almost enough to make this movie wholesome; but one good aspect isn't exactly enough to make a movie on its own. Sam Rockwell is also pretty good, which is somewhat of a shame considering his almost limited screen-time. He has plenty of it as far as this film goes, but then again he doesn't shine quite as much as he should. There is inspiration hidden beneath the two roles; but not nearly enough to make the performances or the director alike worth mentioning in the near future. "Conviction" simply forgettable.

"Conviction" wants to work as a full-out drama. That's admirable; since most films are dramas at heart, but advertise themselves as something else. At best, this film is true to whatever the heck its good ol' premise suggests. It's got the kind of straight-forward story-telling that you'd expect, as well as the mildly satisfactory entertainment value that you'd want. There's not a whole lot I can really ask out of the film, since it's not like I could have possibly liked it anyways. But then again, maybe I could have. Some true stories-turned-into-films are good because they have great writers and directors. Director Tony Goldwyn is no visionary; but his craft is pretty admirable, and there's nothing wrong with what he's done here. But the problem with that is: while I can't say it's bad, I will not say it's good either. "Conviction" is a real hell-of-a mixed bag; a film that will not earn its place in history, but serves as decent entertainment. Maybe it would have been entertainment if the thing hadn't contained every single goddamn melodramatic cliché within itself; and that alone takes away from most of the appeal. Plus, it has a really generic and repetitive soundtrack. So even the stylistic elements become a bore after a while. But at least Swank and Rockwell never do; and that's enough to make "Conviction" a decent little film at best. I can't praise it; and I can not bash it down to the ground. I do not despise it; I respect it. It's decent, and that's that.

At the end of the day, "Conviction" isn't too interesting, and it's not too fun either. It's not really good, it's not really bad, and it's not really as compelling as it probably wants to be. I've seen true stories turned into fascinating films, and then I've seen stuff like "Conviction". It's a tough case; a film that may or may not work depending on the viewer. Me, I've seen too much like this. It felt too familiar to enjoy, but yet it was entertaining and aimed to please. But that means it's indulgent; and that's almost never a good thing. As I said, there's no way that I would prevent you from seeing this flick. It's not a bad film by any means, and it's not half bad. But there's not enough raw fascination to hold the thing up in the end, and that's where it falls flat on its face. One moment boring and one moment entertaining; "Conviction" does not hold the fort. It does not do too good of a job when it comes to re-telling the admittedly fascinating true story. But not all true stories make for good films when they are translated into such media, and this is one of those cases where everything dramatic just doesn't work as well cinematically as it did in reality. The filmmakers didn't quite understand that bit, and something tells me that had they have known, this thing would have been a recommendation. But alas, it is not. But I can forgive it; after all, it was not insulting to my intelligence. And that's always good, right?

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March 11, 2011
great review once more
March 08, 2011
Swank is awesome when given the right role; too bad she doesn't seem to be getting any of those...thanks!
More Conviction (2010 movie) reviews
Quick Tip by . March 14, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
I went into this film with no preconceptions and no expectations. I knew a little bit about the plot, which follows a woman's attempt to prove her brother's innocence in a murder case after he's been sentenced to life in prison. The film's story is based on actual events, which at first made me think it might be a cheap star-studded film, so I knew it was going to be the predictable "inspirational" type of film that you see so often. However, what was such a pleasant surprise was how wonderful the …
review by . January 06, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
   Conviction is based on the true story of Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank) who puts herself through a law school in order to represent her brother, Kenny Waters (Sam Rockwell), who has been wrongfully accused of first degree murder. Of course you already know or at least have an idea about the result of this story but the momentum build-up is interesting enough too keep you focused. While it doesn't rely on a tense atmosphere and thrilling "detective" experience, it manages …
Quick Tip by . November 19, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
I absolutely loved this movie. Hillary Swank was awesome as was the rest of the cast. I love movies about dystunctional people as they are so much more interesting than so called "normal" people. This was an awesome story and wonderfully acted. Don't miss it
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #11
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie


  • Opened October 15, 2010 (Limited 10/15) | Runtime:1 hr. 47 min.
  • R
    language and some violent images
  • When her older brother Kenny (Sam Rockwell) is convicted of murder and sentenced to life in 1983, Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank) vows to get the conviction overturned. Beginning an 18-year quest to exonerate Kenny, Betty Anne puts herself through college and law school. With the help of her best friend (Minnie Driver), Betty Anne pores over piles of suspicious evidence and retraces the steps that led to Kenny's arrest in the hope of finally winning her brother's freedom.Read More
  • Cast: Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Minnie Driver, Melissa Leo, Peter Gallagher, Ari Graynor, Loren Dean, Conor Donovan, Owen Campbell, Tobias Campbell, Bailee Madison, Clea Duvall, Karen Young, Talia Balsam, John Pyper-Ferguson, Juliette Lewis
  • Director: Tony Goldwyn
  • Genres: DocudramaCourtroom DramaDrama
  • Poster art for 'Conviction.'
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    Director: Tony Goldwyn
    Genre: Biography, Crime, Drama
    Release Date: October 15, 2010 (limited)
    MPAA Rating: R
    Screen Writer: Pamela Gray
    Runtime: 107 minutes
    Studio: 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight Pictures
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