Thursday, 13 January 2011
(I was unusually hungover when I watched "Conviction", so this may be a particularly grumpy and humourless review)
Sam Rockwell? Hilary Swank? Intense drama? Sounds good?
"Conviction" is the true story of a woman who trained as a lawyer in order to free her wrongfully imprisoned brother. Swank is the woman, Rockwell the brother. When he is accused of a murder he didn't commit (or did he?), the stage is set for a drama of truly TV movie proportions.
"Conviction" is one of those "worthy" films that comes weighed down with aspirations of truth, profundity and awards success and, in spite of solid performances from Swank and Rockwell, cannot attain any of its goals.
This is ponderous, slow, stilted film-making. The story spans twenty years, glossing over large periods and major events, and manages to feel both deathly dull and strangely hurried at the same time. The drama is also a peculiar combination of overwrought and undersold; here's a film where every other scene involves someone either crying or yelling or smashing something up, and yet the emotion never actually connects until the moderately touching finale.
Rockwell is as watchable as ever, but is landed with a muted character who simply switches between "lovable rascal", "suffering innocent" and "angry psycho" at various intervals, never really becoming more than a plot device.
Swank too, struggles manfully to bring life to the stock character of the noble everywoman struggling for justice in an uncaring world, but she is blessed with none of the sass of, say, "Erin Brockovich", or the fragile poise of Angie in "Changeling".
Juliette Lewis crops up for a stand-out two-scener as a white-trash "witness" to the murder, and Minnie Driver puts in another solid, if unremarkable turn as that other great staple: the reliable, long-suffering best friend.
Everything plods along inexorably, before resolving in a pleasantly understated manner which still leaves the resounding feeling that an achievement such as spending twenty years working on getting your brother out of jail deserves a more interesting and powerful film than this perfunctory exercise.