Yet another inspiring true story, this time about Betty Anne Waters (Hilary Swank) who earns her GED, a four-year college diploma and eventually a law degree in order to prove the innocence of her wild-child brother Kenny (Sam Rockwell), who is serving a life sentence for a murder that he didn’t commit. The system was and always is the problem, and its villainous face here is Officer Nancy Taylor (Melissa Leo), a Snidely Whiplash figure who cackles and stirs the pot like the definitive wicked witch.
But it’s difficult to watch Swank and Rockwell do their respective things (she is the gritty workhorse, while he remains the epitome of mercurial intensity) without noticing that they are struggling against material that, despite their best efforts, still looks like a glorified television movie of the week.
Just in case we missed the memo, Waters gets a gal pal in Abra Rice (Minnie Driver), another older law school student with a sassy attitude to offset the downbeats and elevate the celebratory tones. This pairing actually accentuates the television vibe even further because the Swank and Driver feel like Laverne and Shirley or Lucy and Ethel in truly dire straits.
Is it just me or are films like Conviction starting to make these impossibly true stories seem quite ordinary and pedestrian? Grade: D+