Based on a true story, Conviction tells the story of a working mother, Betty Ann Waters (Hilary Swank), who puts herself through law school in an effort to represent her brother, Kenny Waters (Sam Rockwell), who has been wrongfully convicted of murder and has exhausted his chances to appeal his conviction through public defenders.
Tony Goldwyn’s direction, while pleasing and sometimes well dramatised, often feels awkward, tiresome and disengaging, struggling to bring out the emotion and capture the inspirational message in an engaging manner, mainly due to the haphazard execution of the films structure, which mostly eradicates the possibility of emotional investment.
It would be easy, therefore, to cast off Conviction as a TV film trying, yet failing, to be something more, but that would be an injustice to the fantastic performances on show from more or less every actor involved..
Hilary Swank delivers a typically veracious, if less than stellar, turn as Betty Anne, while Sam Rockwell inhabits the role of Kenny with an extraordinary level of depth and naturalism, unavoidably making you trust him and believe his innocence.
Minnie Driver injects much-needed humour and likeability into the film as swank’s loyal compadre, and Juliette Lewis, despite only appearing in two scenes, completely envelops her character, giving a breathtaking performance as a wasted tramp whose also a key witness for the prosecution.
Conviction is ultimately an okay, yet disappointedly constructed, tale of retribution, elevated by several terrific performances.