Monday, November 8, 2010


MPAA (R) USCCB (L) Roger Ebert (3 stars) Fr. Dennis (3 ½ stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB Review -
Roger Ebert’s Review -

Initially, I found Conviction difficult to watch. Don’t get me wrong, the movie was excellently done. However, since one knew what was going to happen, it felt like watching a coming trainwreck: Kenny Waters (played by Sam Rockwell) a problematic man in his 20s, still stupid, reckless, and immature to be sure, finds himself accused of murder. And he finds that he has a boatload of townspeople, acquaintances and former girlfriends who could testify that he was erratic and at times violent.

Then the movie felt both very, very real, and very, very sad. Kenny’s sister, Betty Ann (played by Hillary Swank) remains utterly convinced that her problematic brother was innocent. What to do? Their family was always a mess. Both Kenny and Betty Ann spent time in multiple foster homes growing up. There was no dad to speak of, their mother who had nine children with seven different men, was no help.

Indeed, despite all this, up to this point Betty Ann had made something of a life for herself. She was married and had two small boys. But she simply refused to give-up on her brother. With no resources to speak of to continue to pay a lawyer, she decides -- in her mid-late twenties -- to first finish college and then GO TO LAW SCHOOL in hopes of finding a way to prove Kenny’s innocence. In probably the saddest line in the whole picture, even Kenny confesses that he doesn’t see much hope, telling Betty Ann during a prison visit: “Innocent or guilty, who really is going to care about a scumbag like me?” Yes, his previous life had made it difficult to have great sympathy for him but being something of a low-life “good ole boy” doesn’t make one a murderer.

The rest of the movie is a chronicle of Betty Ann’s struggle to prove Kenny's innocence. Obviously, she succeeds in the end. This is a Hollywood movie afterall and despite the R-rated language and somewhat gruesome crime evidence actually feels like a Hallmark Channel or Lifetime Channel movie.

But by the end of the movie, I found it to be very thought provoking: Would YOU do this for a loved one? Would you sacrifice so much of your life (16 years) to, yes, save a family member, but she was in the midst of creating new family with a husband and two kids? Would there be any point where you'd stop? I found these to be great questions which came to mind as the movie approached its conclusion, because it was so clear that this was not a cost-free "project." Betty Ann sacrificed a lot during the course of those 16 years.

Finally, a word about the rating of this movie. Conviction is rightly Rated R. There is language, there is blood, but most importantly, I simply don’t think a child or young teenager could really grasp a movie like this, nor would I want to inflict it on a child or young teenager for no just reason. IT IS A PAINFUL though VERY THOUGHT PROVOKING movie to watch. As such, I would truly tend to recommend this movie to only to adults. This does not mean that it is a bad movie -- I thought it was one of the best acted movies that I've seen all year -- It's just NOT for most kids or young teens.

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