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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Tony Goldwyn
Cast:
Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Minnie Driver, Juliette Lewis, Peter Gallagher, Owen Campbell, Conor Donovan, Melissa Leo
Writing Credits:
Pamela Gray

Tagline:
The incredible true story of Betty Anne Waters.

Synopsis:
Two-time Academy Award® winner Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell deliver unforgettable performances in this incredible true story that co-stars Minnie Driver, Juliette Lewis and Peter Gallagher. Swank plays Betty Anne Waters, a young woman whose world is shattered when her beloved brother Kenny (Rockwell) is convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. Steadfastly convinced of his innocence, Betty Anne embarks on an 18-year journey to set Kenny free, using state-of-the-art forensic technology. The unshakable bond between a brother and sister, at the heart of this real-life drama, will stir your emotions and inspire you.

Box Office:
Budget
$12.5 million.
Opening Weekend
$102.351 thousand on 11 screens.
Domestic Gross
$6.783 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 107 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 2/1/2011

Bonus:
• “A Conversation with Tony Goldwyn and Betty Anne Waters”
• Previews and Sneak Peek


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Conviction [Blu-Ray] (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (January 11, 2011)

For a based-on-real-events drama, we head to 2010’s Conviction. In 1980, someone brutally murders Katharina Brow. Given his status as a local lowlife, the authorities question Kenny Waters (Sam Rockwell) but don’t detain him for long.

Two years later, however, this event comes back to haunt Kenny, and the police formally arrest him, largely because his ex-girlfriend Brenda (Clea DuVall) testifies that he confessed his guilt to her. We hear her claims as well as those from others, and we learn of Kenny’s troubled childhood as well as his criminal history as an adult.

All of these add up to Kenny’s conviction for murder and robbery and leads to a life sentence without parole. Kenny’s younger sister Betty Anne (Hilary Swank) refuses to believe that he actually committed the crime, and she helps pursue a variety of appeals.

None of these go well, so she decides to put her money where her mouth is. Though now a married mother of two in her thirties, Betty Anne goes through a long educational process; she obtains her GED and then works through college and law school so she can take over Kenny’s case. The film follows her quest to exonerate her brother.

Over the years since she gained public prominence via 1999’s Boys Don’t Cry, Swank has had a rather unusual career. With two Best Actress Oscars – for Cry and 2004’s Million Dollar Baby - she should probably be a major star, but she seems to remain on a second tier that doesn’t allow her entry to many “A”-list projects. This means that she alternates “Oscar bait” projects like Conviction and 2009’s Amelia with a string of romantic comedies and lower-brow efforts.

Conviction should allow Swank a chance to shine; not only does she play a woman who went on a remarkable journey, but also she’s on screen for the vast majority of the film. Occasional cutaways to Kenny serve to provide essentially the movie’s only scenes without Betty Anne.

I think Swank does pretty well with the role but her performance suffers from the one-sided nature of the character. Oh, Betty Anne gets to go through a range of emotions; though she usually seems stuck with anger, sadness or frustration, at least the story allows her to experience a mix of feelings, so Swank can demonstrate different facets of her role.

However, Betty Anne demonstrates zero character arc. She starts as wide-eyed and determined and remains that way through the entire film. At no point does she show any real change or growth; we don’t get a sense of a personality at work here, as Betty Anne exists more as a symbol than as a person.

That gives the movie a monotone nature that it can’t afford since it already comes with a predetermined outcome. I don’t feel that the ending of Conviction is predictable because it’s based on real events and we can find out what actually happened; I think it’s a march toward the inevitable because I know how Hollywood movies work. Seriously, do you think they’d make a movie about a woman’s 18-year quest to prove her brother’s innocence if she failed?

No, though that flick might be more interesting than this one. I will give the filmmakers credit for their attempts to cast doubt in our minds, as we clearly see hotheaded ne’er-do-well Kenny as someone who could kill. The movie’s early scenes show him as a juvenile delinquent with a short temper, a violent spirit and a list of criminal convictions in his past.

Unfortunately, the manner in which the film depicts Kenny’s troubled nature inadvertently harms it because it becomes next to impossible to care about Kenny. The story paints him as such a nasty piece of work that we’re actually pretty relieved to see him behind bars. Of course, I don’t endorse the punishment of a person for a crime he didn’t commit, but I sure don’t see Kenny as a sympathetic party; as depicted here, he seems like someone who would’ve ended up in prison even without the murder charge.

The movie does vaguely try to give him some positive traits, but these don’t stick. For instance, we see a bar altercation during which he nearly stabs a guy with a broken bottle just because the other dude made a crack about Kenny’s daughter. The offender had the audacity to state that maybe Kenny shouldn’t bring an infant to a bar – what a concept!

After Kenny calms down, he performs a silly dance and an impromptu striptease. This is supposed to make us forgive him – his sister and girlfriend do – because he’s such an irrepressible, fun guy.

Uh, no. Rather than seem charming and lovable, Kenny just comes across like he’s unhinged and narcissistic. The film’s attempts to paint him as charming actually make me like him less; he feels like a total sociopath without any sense of right or wrong. And this is the guy I’m supposed on whose freedom I’m supposed to invest emotional attachment?

Even without such an unsympathetic party involved, Conviction falters due to sluggish storytelling. In its first act, it flits across eras in a disjointed manner, and once it becomes more clearly chronological, it feels choppy. I understand the filmmakers’ need to abbreviate the tale – after all, it takes place over two decades – but they do so at the expense of character development and a concise narrative.

At its heart, Conviction focuses on a potentially stirring tale of devotion and justice. On the screen, however, it falls flat. This is a project with noble intentions that never comes together.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B-/ Audio C+/ Bonus D+

Conviction appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. The movie came with a good but unexceptional presentation.

Sharpness was the most erratic aspect of the image. Most of the flick exhibited positive delineation, but some wide shots lacked great clarity. Still, the majority of the movie was accurate and tight. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no edge haloes. Print flaws also failed to appear.

In terms of palette, the movie lacked many dynamic hues. It stayed with a nearly sepia tone that left little room for broader colors. Within these restrictions, the hues appeared fine. Blacks were reasonably deep and dense, and shadows demonstrated adequate definition. All of this was good enough for a “B-“.

Given the film’s chattiness, we didn’t get much pizzazz from the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Conviction. Very few scenes offered any chance for impressive material. Honestly, I’d find it hard to come up with anything that used the side and surrounds channels in a significant manner. A sequence with prison unrest probably became the most immersive, and bits in the street or at bars showed decent ambience, but that was about it. We got reasonably stereo music but the effects didn’t have a lot to do.

At least audio quality was fine. Speech always came across as distinctive and concise, without edginess or other distractions. Music seemed clear and smooth, and effects were acceptable. Again, they didn’t broaden the mix in a noticeable way, but those elements appeared accurate enough. This wasn’t a bad mix, but it was too low-key for anything over a “C+”.

Conviction skimps on extras. We find a featurette called A Conversation with Tony Goldwyn and Betty Anne Waters. In this 10-minute, 19-second piece, the director and the real-life inspiration for the movie’s main character. We learn a little about her experiences and reflections on the film. A few interesting details emerge – including a cruelly ironic coda related to Kenny Waters – but the piece is too brief and superficial to be really useful.

The disc opens with ads for Never Let Me Go, Black Swan and 127 Hours. We also find a Sneak Peek at Cyrus. No trailer for Conviction shows up here.

Despite an intriguing subject, Conviction falls short of its goals. It suffers from a main character who lacks development, a secondary lead who seems utterly unsympathetic, and a general absence of movement or narrative. The Blu-ray provides generally good picture quality, adequate audio and minor supplements. There’s an interesting story buried here somewhere, but Conviction doesn’t portray those events in a compelling manner.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 1
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