Conviction is an inspirational true story, turned bland Oscar bait.
Between October and January, Hollywood film studios release their “serious films” – the ones poised to bring in critical praise and maybe even a few Oscars.Riding the recent wave of potential awards show contenders is director Tony Goldwyn’s “Conviction.” The film stars Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell, among an impressive ensemble cast, and is certainly begging for recognition.”Conviction” follows the true struggle of Betty Anne Waters, a woman who holds fast that her convicted brother is innocent of a grisly murder. In the film, as in real life, Waters, played by Swank, deals with many personal struggles as she earns a law degree, all in an effort to appeal the murder charge that sent her brother to prison for life.From the beginning, the film successfully recreates many of the moments leading up to the conviction of her brother Kenny, played by Rockwell.However, once the story moves away from these initial incidents and begins to fall solely on Waters, the film loses focus quickly.What once appeared to be the story of a small town murder and those ravished by it turns into the story of one woman’s struggle against the odds.In what may seem like no time at all, Waters begins law school and sacrifices every constant in her life to obsess over the case.The years of her life fly by throughout the film. Though it is clear the time lapses are intended to show how long she fought her battle, there is never enough time to feel as if there was something worth fighting for.It is hard to gain a sense that anything is really at stake for Waters. Scenes that are supposed to bring emotional weight to the film are usually squashed by an assortment of clich and sappy moments.There are a few flickers of genuine engagement, particularly one where Waters is forced to consider that her brother may be guilty after all. Other than that, her story is mostly a tired retelling of others like it.What really resonate are the scenes with Rockwell. This comes as no surprise, Rockwell has left his mark on smaller independent films such as “Choke,” as well as summer blockbusters including “Iron Man 2” and “Charlie’s Angels.”Rockwell’s Kenny is portrayed with a sense of desperation and urgency that is sorely lacking from the rest of the film. Kenny is completely unpredictable, and there is never any telling what he may do to himself or others.As for the rest of the cast, where were they? The credits show names like Melissa Leo, Peter Gallagher and Minnie Driver, yet their purpose is unclear.While the names mentioned above have a fair amount of screen time, other talents, like Juliette Lewis, are reduced to characters that exist solely for plot development.While the film is not the worst one released this season, it is hard not to feel as if “Conviction” was misguided. It suffers from a serious case of personality disorder, and despite a few solid performances, never amounts to much.