The 2010 drama Conviction tells the true story of Betty Ann Waters, a woman who tirelessly worked for eighteen years to free her wrongly convicted brother, Kenny. Betty Ann is portrayed by Oscar winner Hilary Swank with Sam Rockwell playing Kenny. Without the strong cast, which also includes Melissa Leo (a multiple Oscar nominee), Minnie Driver (Oscar nominee), Juliette Lewis (Oscar nominee) and Peter Gallagher, Conviction would have been tailor made for a Lifetime movie of the week. Despite being heavy handed at times, the movie is very watchable and compelling.
In 1980 an elderly woman is found brutally murdered in her home. Kenny, who is a neighbor of the woman, is questioned for the crime, but released due to lack of evidence and an alibi for the time of the murder. Two years later Kenny is arrested and convicted of the murder based on testimony of two ex-girlfriends who say he told them he did it. Betty Ann, who is a high-school drop-out, is determined to not let her brother spend the rest of his life in prison for a crime she knows he did not commit. She studies for her GED, enrolls in college, and eventually law school. It all takes years, and her quest destroys her marriage and strains her relationship with her two sons.
Betty Ann’s determination is unwavering. When DNA evidence becomes a new factor in exonerating innocent convicts, Betty Ann sets her sights on collecting blood samples from the crime. She enlists the newly founded Innocence Project to help her. Barry Scheck (Gallagher), eventually takes the case, and the pair set off the find the evidence. An unexpected setback leads Betty Ann to confront the ex-girlfriends. She is sure they were coerced into their testimony by a corrupt cop (Leo). As one of the girlfriends, Juliette Lewis is very believable as a burned out drug addict who is unsure if she should help or not. The other girlfriend, played by Clea Duvall, is the mother of Kenny’s daughter who he hasn’t seen since she was a baby. Betty Ann is desperate to get to the truth and repair the daughter’s relationship with Kenny.
While the material is very compelling, the storytelling is by the numbers. There are few surprises or twists and turns. However, since it is based on a true story it is nice that they kept fairly close to true events. Though reading about the case online, there were a few interesting elements left out, which is a surprise since they could have added a little more drama to the story. The real stand out of the movie is Sam Rockwell. He is excellent as Kenny. He goes from the fun loving but screwed up trouble maker to hardened convict with convincing ease. Overall I would say the movie is good but not great.