Movie review: Sister wages 18-year war against 'Conviction'
“Conviction” is based on a true story full of complex and extraordinary people – good, bad and somewhere in between – that any audience would be eager to get to know and try to understand, and a stellar cast brings them vividly to life in this absorbing tale of love, loyalty and sacrifice from director Tony Goldwyn and screenwriter Pamela Gray.
Actual facts and deeds provide fertile ground for Hilary Swank to grow another Oscar-worthy performance as Betty Anne Waters, a Massachusetts working-class woman whose unconditional love for her wild, ever-in-trouble brother Kenny (Sam Rockwell, also in Oscar-level mode) moves her to fight an 18-year battle to prove against seemingly insurmountable odds that her sibling was sentenced to life in prison for a heinous murder he did not commit.
Swank does the underdog against the world better than almost any actor working today, with the Oscars from “Boys Don’t Cry” and “Million Dollar Baby” to prove it, and here she shines again as a small-town, unemployed high school dropout who dedicates her life to the exoneration and release of her brother. She risks her marriage, her relationship with her kids and her friendships in the process, as she accomplishes the incredible feat of obtaining a GED, a college degree and putting herself through law school to represent her beloved Kenny.
Her enemies are a badly flawed legal system, an unscrupulous local cop (an effectively mean-spirited and despicable Melissa Leo), and two of Kenny’s disgruntled exes, particularly the one played by Juliette Lewis, who in two brief scenes transforms herself into a loathsome, wine-swilling, hilariously grammar-challenged, unrepentant perjurer, delivering the most memorable, Academy Award-caliber turn of the entire film.
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