Tony Goldwyn's drama features powerful performances but lacks grit, depth or gravity

(15) 107min

True life stories can make for compelling cinema experiences, but Conviction, a torn-from-the-headlines tale of a loving sister’s twenty-year struggle to clear her brother of a murder conviction, is far too plainly manipulative to impress.

When charismatic Middle American wild-boy Kenny Waters (Sam Rockwell) is convicted of murder, working mother Betty Anne (Hilary Swank) refuses to accept his guilt, and without the cash to pay for representation, retrains as a lawyer to fight his case. While Kenny rots in prison, Betty Anne is assisted in her quest by fellow lawyer Abra Rice (Minnie Driver), eventually discovering previously unknown evidence.

Actor turned TV director Tony Goldwyn’s drama features undeniably powerful performances from Swank and Rockwell, but lacks grit, depth or gravity. Although the identity of the real murderer is never revealed, Pamela Gray’s script offers nothing more than a few misty-eyes flashbacks to suggest why Betty Anne had such confidence in her brother’s good nature. Rockwell sheds his good looks to wither away convincingly, and Swank flashes her million dollar smile to good effect, but for patronising its audience, and compromising the undoubted achievements of its earnest protagonists, Conviction stands guilty as charged.

General release, Fri 14 Jan.

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