Director: Tony Goldwyn Release Date: 15/10/10 Link: IMDB Homonym alert! We’ve got one hiding ever so subtly in the title of director Tony Goldwyn’s fact-based drama Conviction. Ask any number of people what they think the film’s moniker stands for and I’m sure you’ll get plenty of answers that make mention of Kenny Waters and his bad day in court. For those of you in need of a history lesson, Kenny, who is played with great gusto by Sam Rockwell, was sentenced to life behind bars in 1983 for allegedly stabbing a woman to death in a Massachusetts trailer home. While that response to my homonym question is technically correct, the real meaning behind Convictionis the unwavering devotion Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank) showed in her 18-year quest to prove her brother’s innocence and get him out of prison. (And when I say “real” I mean my opinion.) But no matter which definition you end up siding with, we should all be able to concede that Betty Anne’s inspirational story of loyalty and perseverance is a remarkable one that can’t be forgotten. And it’s all the more powerful when you consider everything she had to go through in her attempt to exonerate her own flesh and blood. Betty Anne and Kenny didn’t come from a family of wealth, so it’s no surprise they couldn’t afford to hire a high-profile lawyer to take on the case. But instead of giving up all hope, Betty Anne, a waitress and high school dropout, decided to grab the bull by the horns and complete the necessary education to become a lawyer herself. With some assistance from her best friend and law school classmate Abra Rice (Minnie Driver), Betty Anne sets out to clear her brother’s name by interviewing old witnesses and scouring through evidence that was collected by Nancy Taylor (Melissa Leo), a small town cop who’s as crooked as young Forrest Gump’s back. Betty Anne’s journey is the stuff of legends, but it didn’t come without its share of bumps in the road. Graduating from law school and investigating a murder charge is no easy feat, and the job is so time-consuming Betty Anne sacrifices her own marriage and family life. But she made a pact with Kenny that she would do everything in her power to free him from jail — and that’s one promise she never intends on breaking. Taking on a personality that is as courageous and stubborn as Betty Anne could be viewed as a tremendously daunting task, but two-time Oscar winner Swank (Boys Don’t Cry and Million Dollar Baby) always seems to be at her best in these blue collar-type roles. Here she gives an earnest performance that impeccably captures both Betty Anne’s will to fight and her fears that she might be throwing her life away for a lost cause. And Rockwell (Moon and Iron Man 2) is equally impressive as Kenny, who is the furthest thing from a one-dimensional character. One minute you’ll find him lovingly cutting a rug with his toddler daughter at a bar, but the next he’ll be punching a guy’s lights out for making a rude comment. And then a minute after that he’s back on the dance floor causing all the people in the tavern to break out laughing and cheering. Rockwell pulls this balancing act off about as well as anyone could ask, it’s just too bad the script from Pamela Gray doesn’t spend nearly enough time examining Kenny’s dark side. Gray often presents Kenny as a caring saint who wouldn’t kill a fly, so as the film moves along I doubt you’ll ever find yourself wondering if he really did commit the heinous crime. A little ambiguity could have really gone a long way in creating some much-needed suspense. And even though Swank and Rockwell are immensely talented actors on their own, collectively they lack that certain kind of spark that makes the strong bond between Betty Anne and Kenny seem authentic and believable. The film includes numerous flashbacks that show the siblings’ history, but rarely does it feel like you are watching an actual brother and sister jumping through hoops for each other. Convictiondoes have enough going for it in the way of acting, directing and editing, but the lack of chemistry and the predictable screenplay make it extremely difficult to connect with the material emotionally. And with a story as amazing as Betty Anne’s, something like that should never happen. Photobucket