Conviction (2010) 2.43/5 (2)


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Rating: The Bad – 59.8
Genre: Drama
Duration: 101 mins
Director: Tony Goldwyn
Stars: Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Melissa Leo

Conviction tells the true life tale of a woman’s (Hilary Swank) 18 year long quest to prove her brother’s (Sam Rockwell) innocence of a brutal murder, a quest that alienated her from her family as she put everything on hold to go back to school to train as a lawyer. There’s a powerful story to be told here not to mention two actors who can do it justice but unfortunately it falls short thanks to a combination of weak directing and writing. At the expense of an honest and substantial probing of the cast iron motivations of its two very interesting protagonists, we are given what seems like a summary of the key events in this tale because, once it establishes the backstory, the film whisks through the 18 years in the space of about 50 minutes. A plethora of high emotion scenes and lots of melancholic piano scoring end up defining this film while a series of chronologically muddled flashbacks throughout the first act confound it. Why didn’t we see more of Melissa Leo’s sinister cop? How did Rockwell’s character learn to cope with the tedium of an unjust prison sentence? Why wasn’t the wearing effect of Swank’s crusade explored in more methodical fashion? What was at the heart of both their decisions to keep going? In fact, if it wasn’t for the albeit constrained performances of Swank and particularly Rockwell, not to mention the gripping events at its centre the story, this movie would be nearly unwatchable. But thankfully the two actors’ natural presence and skill are just about enough to draw the audience in and while Rockwell has far less screen time than Swank, the glimpses of him that we are given are emphatic testament to what he can do when he chooses to take on a straight-up dramatic role. The film comes to life when he’s on the screen and if his character’s 18 year stint was more in the movie’s focus, it would’ve been considerably more enjoyable. However, Hollywood is often guilty of overcooking its tear-jerking true life stories and despite Rockwell and Swank, Conviction still falls very much into that bracket. As such, it must go down as an opportunity missed.

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