Betty Anne Waters was sure her brother was innocent. She was so sure in fact, that she devoted most of her life to becoming a lawyer just so she could help her brother out. 'Conviction' tells the true story of Mrs. Waters and her fight to free her innocent brother.
Betty (Hilary Swank) is a strong, courageous woman from a rough background. Growing up, she and her brother Kenny (Sam Rockwell) always looked out for each other. Saddled with parents that didn't care much about them, Betty and Kenny had to stick together to survive. They were constantly in trouble with the cops for trespassing and breaking into homes. They were mischievous, but never really all that malicious.
Both of them grew up and had families. While Betty went more of the homemaker route, Kenny still held on to his old ways of law breaking. He was constantly in and out of jail, so much that the cops knew him by name. When a local woman is murdered the cops, led by a vindictive detective Nancy Taylor (Melissa Leo), set about to railroad Kenny and pin the murder on him.
Since he's a screw-up with a temper, it's easy to finger him for the crime. The circumstantial evidence also seems to implicate Kenny as the murderer. This is before DNA testing had come along and all they could test for was to see if blood types matched up. Kenny is sentenced to life without parole.
The movie flashes back and forth through time, letting us in on a little more of Kenny and Betty's relationship. Rockwell, is perfect as the innocent convict, but the way he acts, you'd also believe Kenny was more than able to commit the crime he was sentenced for. He's got a temper and he's violent. Since we already know the outcome, because of this trial's somewhat high-profile notoriety, there's no spoiler in saying that Kenny really is innocent even though he seems, at times, to be a nasty human being.
Betty is the main focal point of the film. We watch as the seemingly eternal quest to get her brother out of prison takes hold of her life, breaks up her marriage, and threatens to alienate the people she loves. She spends her days studying for law tests and preparing to take the bar examine, all the while trying to dig up new evidence on her brother's conviction.
It's a harrowing journey. The fact that it's a true story makes it even more inspirational. The star-studded ensemble cast brings this film and its depiction of the events to life. Even actress Julliette Lewis, who is only on screen for a few minutes total, is pitch-perfect in her role.
'Conviction' is moving, heartfelt, and very well acted. It's a "based on a true story film" that doesn't seem like it's embellishing the truth at every turn. It's low-key and subtle. We're left to make up our own minds about Betty's motivations. Was she right to sacrifice her life in order to free her brother? That's something only Betty herself can answer, but it's truly inspiring to watch her story unfold.
Even though the 1080p transfer of 'Conviction' features bleak cold landscapes and the stark white walls of prison life, this video presentation is still brimming with liveliness.
The depth and detail here are fantastic. The high-def presentation provides a highly detailed picture that captures every facial wrinkle and every miniscule hair protruding from Sam Rockwell's goatee. The movie spans about a decade and a half, flying back and forth between time periods. The color scheme changes with the time periods, but always stays consistently strong. The scenes of young Betty and Kenny take on a diffused, dream-like look, but the clarity is still there.
'Conviction's transfer is as clean as they come. I didn't notice any errant noise wreaking havoc on the picture. I didn't notice any digital anomalies either, as banding, blocking, and aliasing never rear their annoying heads. Shadow detail is consistent and strong, providing sharp delineated shadows that add depth and detail to the picture instead of crushing it.
As you may have guessed 'Conviction's 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is a talkative one. There isn't much in the way of wham-bang action here, but that's just fine, because the movie itself doesn't call for it. Here we're treated to a more reserved, but still a very solid audio mix.
Whether it be yelling or whispering, the center and front channels pick up all of the movie's dialogue and produce it with a clearly audible signal. There's never a point where I had to strain to hear what the characters were saying. Even when Betty comes to talk to Kenny in prison, and their voices are low and purposeful, everything comes out intelligibly.
LFE is rarely used, except for a few instances where doors slam or prison bars clank shut. The lower end frequencies are only used for subtle sound effects rather than explosions and a thumping soundtrack. It's rarely called upon, but when it is it adds a nice depth to movie's overall audio feel.
Even though you already know the eventual outcome, it's still a heroic story, watching Betty Anne Waters fight over the course of a decade trying to get her brother, who was wrongfully convicted, out of prison. The movie is filled with great character actors who bring the story to life. The acting is just superb (and we even get to see some more of those patented Sam Rockwell dance moves - sans pants). The video has an amazing depth to it. It's a highly detailed picture that will give your HD displays a run for their money. The audio mix is more reserved, but it works very well with the movie's somber subject matter. The special features are the real disappointments here. There's only one, and it's only 10 minutes long. No commentary track, for a movie such as this, is a real shame. Still, this comes recommended.