Sunday, December 5, 2010

Conviction (Brockway)

Sprockets by Ian Brockway     

"Conviction" is a very moving film about the slight mistakes we can make that turn into very big mistakes. It is about the spiral of the justice system and the pettiness that it can possess.
But ultimately, it is about the bond that exists between brother and sister.

"Conviction" stars the esteemed Hilary Swank as Betty Anne Waters, the driven single mom who works tirelessly to exonerate her brother Kenny (Sam Rockwell) who is wrongfully convicted and up for life. You could say the odds were stacked against them. As children Betty Anne and Kenny grew up in eight different foster homes, away from their dysfunctional and abusive mother. As kids, they broke into neighbors' bedrooms and ate stolen candy, pretending to live in a stable family. These are the some of the most striking scenes in the film as they are hard edged "Little Rascals" doing whatever they can, joined at the hip.

At first, the cops treat the deliquent youngsters with genial familiarity. But as years pass,Kenny has an aggressive temper and it gets him in trouble at a bar.

One day Kenny is clearing brush in his backyard and he happens to have a chainsaw in hand. A policewoman arrives. In one Kafkaesque second, Kenny is questioned in the murder of Katharina Brow. After a semi-sour exchange, Kenny is let go. Abruptly, during the funeral of his father in law, there is a flashing shade over the church ceiling akin to the apprehension in the first "Godfather" film. Kenny is led away without fanfare and without deep reason. His blood type matches and he is said to have had words with the victim. Kenny's sister knows his guilt is falsified. And she vows to get him released. But she isn't in "The Next Three Days" although she is just as determined as Russell Crowe. Unlike that action film, the events build slowly with a natural detail and the tension is in Betty Anne's unflagging resolve and the devotion to her brother.

This is a breakout part for Sam Rockwell who clearly changes from a volatile young man who is not without his charms into an almost broken soul, had it not been for his sister.

We see the suspenseful cycle and purpose of Betty Anne's journey from single mom, to student and crusader. The glue is in the charisma shared between actors Rockwell and Swank and the dramatic interplay they bring to what could have been a TV movie, but is something more. Sadly, during the writing of this review, I learned that Kenny Waters died from a fall shortly after being cleared of all charges. The film then becomes a record, but it is no less uplifting for that.

To watch Rockwell and Swank as brother and sister, is to witness the effect of sibling love on the human condition. 

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