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film review: Conviction

Leonard Maltin By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin October 15, 2010 at 4:00AM

I know, I know: this sounds like TV-movie fodder. But Conviction isn’t a formulaic feel-good saga. It is based on a true story that takes many unexpected turns, and I found it quite moving. Hilary Swank plays a working-class Massachusetts woman in the 1980s who vows to go back to school and earn a law degree so she can help her innocent brother beat a murder rap that’s put him in prison for life. Sam Rockwell is the brother, a lifelong hellraiser who can’t believe his sister has that kind of devotion—
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I know, I know: this sounds like TV-movie fodder. But Conviction isn’t a formulaic feel-good saga. It is based on a true story that takes many unexpected turns, and I found it quite moving. Hilary Swank plays a working-class Massachusetts woman in the 1980s who vows to go back to school and earn a law degree so she can help her innocent brother beat a murder rap that’s put him in prison for life. Sam Rockwell is the brother, a lifelong hellraiser who can’t believe his sister has that kind of devotion—

—and determination.

Pamela Gray’s script steers wide of clichés, and in the hands of such skillful actors, under Tony Goldwyn’s sure-footed direction, Conviction spells out its story step by step. Minnie Driver, Juliette Lewis, Melissa Leo, and Peter Gallagher head a solid supporting cast.

But the double-meaning of the title is well served by its two leading actors: they are committed to these characters, and it shows in their sincere, well-modulated performances.

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