I once had the misfortunate of watching a Lifetime television special and because of this I was forced to use a tampon for the rest of the week. Going one step further, Tony Goldwyn’s Conviction, which has been advertised as the perfect Oscar-bait, kicked me square in the balls and sent me straight to menopause. Goldwyn and his writer Pamela Gray make little use of the vastly talented Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell (who actually allow Conviction to have a theatrical release in the first place), and instead churn out the same pseudo-heartwarming tale of triumph that you’d expect from Lifetime (or as males think of it — “no man’s land”). Hell, at times it actually seems like portions of the film were made specifically to be appropriate commercial placemats (namely ones for Maxwell House).
The film stars Rockwell (you know, the guy from Moon and Iron Man 2) as Kenny Waters, a wise-cracking Massachusetts resident who has no trouble stripping naked in a crowded bar and then starting a fight with one of the clientele. Of course, this tattooed meat-head has quite the bit of trouble with the cops, namely Nancy Taylor (Melissa Leo), who pads him down for suspected murder. Though he is initially released for lack of evidence, they arrest him once more, this time at his grandmother’s funeral and inform him that his blood was found at the crime scene (which we actually see in the film’s opening moments, in one of those dramatic 360 degree angle shots that showcase the inner confines of a small den).
“Cops are drawn to me like bees to honey,” Waters tells his loving sister, Betty Anne (Hilary Swank), a working-class mother who decides to take up law after reminiscing about their childhood, in which the young pair would break into people’s houses with dreams of owning a mansion one day. Of course, Betty Anne struggles to maintain a family while in school and her husband is a jerk (this is a staple for the Lifetime film) but at least she has Abra Rice (Minnie Driver), a fellow student whom we are forced-fed to believe is Betty Anne’s best friend even though there is no build-up towards their relationship.
In all honesty, Rockwell is the only actor that I cared for in Conviction. Hilary Swank deploys some sort-of amateurish accent which is an annoyance. Minnie Driver almost represents the token Lifetime fan and Melissa Leo is just bland in her role. However, screenwriter Pamela Gray is the one who fucks up big-time. There is no character development, no dramatic build-up, and the storyline is just plain cliché — even going so far as to end with the stereotypical picture of the real Kenny and Betty Anne Waters (who look nothing like Swank and Rockwell).
Conviction would have done significantly better if it went straight to television. If that was the case, it’d no doubt sweep awards, but since that’s not the case, Rockwell would be extremely lucky to win an Oscar for his performance (realistically, even getting nominated would be stretching it, which is a crying shame) in this trash-heap of a motion-picture.