CONVICTION (2010)

TMG Scale 7.5
Starring Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell

The opening scene of this film took a page right out of In Cold Blood (1967). But, it quickly made a sharp turn to a feel good human interest story about wrongful conviction, rather than even consider or care who the real killer is.

If you liked Stone with Ed Norton, you might find some striking similarities to Sam Rockwell in this “get me out of prison” film. What made Conviction more interesting to me is the way it challenged my thinking of DNA usage to free those wrongly convicted. It’s always  been TMG’s view that many of these folks, while perhaps wrongly convicted of the accused crime, were hardly innocent.

Did this movie change my mind? No.  Neither did Little Children, (2006) change my mind about child molesters and sex offenders.  But it sure made me think about my assumptions and conclusions.  Good films, even trivial ones, should make us think….about at least something more than why your HTC EVO phone still makes noises on silent mode (another days rant).

This film is based upon a true life story of Kenny Waters. Played by Rockwell, Kenny grew up close to his sister Betty Anne (Swank), the victims of a bad home and horrific foster home practices. As a child, Kenny was a “little spit” at best and certainly a wild and crazy guy. He certainly gave the local police a rational reason to believe he should be one of the usual suspects in any local crime in the otherwise bucolic, Ayer, Massachusetts in 1980.  But did he commit a heinous and  senseless murder?  His little sister did not think so and would work for nearly twenty years to free him. TMG has a little sister much like Swank.  Such women like this do exist.  They are rare,  but made this film both emotional and real.

A number of  tragedies run through this film. People fanatically dedicated to social or human cause rarely have a spouse that can tolerate their zealous commitment to a cause or to someone else. Children suffer. Certainly, wrongly convicted Kenny Waters suffered in prison. Ironically, it may not have been years of fighting the system and even a trip through law school for Betty Anne that finally frees Kenny. It may have been simply time and the evolution of DNA technology. The real life Kenny Water’s eventual fate is never revealed, not even in the closing credits. Google it after watching the movie—just more irony and tregedy.

TMG once again does not like the way Hollywood makes the police out as bumbling idiots, or worse, callous maniacs just looking for an easy win or fall guy. On the other hand, I did admire the Erin Brockovich style swagger that Hilary Swank gives to her character. If you  have a good cause and truly believe, never take “no” for an answer. If some bureaucrat gives you the run around on the phone, show up and hold them accountable. This is a valuable lesson TMG learned from a good Jesuit education.  Question everything—especially authority.

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