Review: Conviction (2010)


Conviction’s one word title is presented with little ceremony, but it’s a single word that has multiple meanings in this heart felt drama.

A fade in and out opening sequence unflinchingly surveys a bloodied murder scene to reveal a butchered body. Fading back out and then onto a contrasting collage of family objects of Kenny’s (Sam Rockwell) prison cell; It’s a brilliant opening that takes us right to the heart of the story as loyal sister Betty (Hilary Swank) begins her battle to prove her brother’s innocence; so much so, that she sacrifices plenty to put herself through law school to learn the system she deeply mistrusts to exonerate her brother.

Conviction means so much in this movie, the questioning of the law and justice, Kenny’s unsteady sentence, Betty’s stubborn conviction in her brother’s innocence and Kenny’s conviction and faith in his sister to prevail.

A by the numbers, based on a true story tale is elevated beyond the average law drama with solid performances all round. The decades spanning, backward and forth time shifting storytelling, recounts a childhood of ill parenting and tells the chequered past of Rockwell’s charming, but volatile defendant with a history of small time misdemeanours that equally convince of his innocence as well as the capability of perpetrating a such a crime with time, when given clemency from an adoring family and the small town law.

As events move on we question Betty’s belief as misplaced, given her love for her brother when without a respectable adult figure, her only protector in a feral upbringing as a struggling mother, well intentioned, is remiss in her duties.

The question of swift and rough provincial justice is raised when Rockwell faces ex partners in court whose testimonies are taken as solid evidence of his guilt and based on apparently nothing more than the small town troublesome rogue being the most likely perpetrator.

With Rockwell’s superb, ambiguous performance and tight scripting revealing nothing concrete about his guilt at any point until the conclusion, Conviction expertly raises the doubts in our own heads of did he or didn’t he; It’s the question that suspends most and keeps Conviction compelling right until the end.

Swank convinces as always with an astute performance even when pacing is bogged down by Betty’s repeated frustrations, but just like the loyal sister she is the tie that binds, admirable in her battle through school and against bureaucracy when juggling the demands of her own family that she is slowly losing sight of in her obsession and faith to still fight.

Conviction is a steadily crafted, unflashy story of family loyalty commenting on the real world deficiencies of law and justice with brilliant central performances from Rockwell and Swank. 

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4 responses to “Review: Conviction (2010)

  1. A more concise review from you man. Whats going on? LOL. Anyway, well done. Nice one. I’ve never really been drawn to this as u can’t stand Hilary Swank. I’m a big admirer of Roxkwell though, so u may still check this out.

    • …an effort to be tighter in my writing. I’m now finding I can still right in depth for some i choose too and practice being concise on others. It’s trial and error. I would advise a watch Mark, I always like Swank and Rockwell is always awesome and his performance is up there in this one, you never quite know. I loved Moon and Jesse James and Hitchhikers guide.

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