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Movie review: 'Conviction'

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Conviction
3 stars

Directed by Tony Goldwyn
Starring Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Minnie Driver, Melissa Leo, Juliette Lewis
Rated R

In “Conviction,” Hilary Swank stars as real-life legal crusader Betty Anne Waters, who spent 18 years trying to exonerate her imprisoned brother, Kenny, from a murder sentence.

Her mission, which entailed getting a B.A. and a J.D. so that she could legally represent Kenny, comes at a cost — her husband, tired of her one-track-mindedness, calls it quits, and her two sons later join him.

Like all stories of wrongful convictions, “Conviction” is distressing. Betty Anne comes up against all the hurdles you’d expect when trying to reverse a verdict — lost evidence, corrupt authorities, politics.

Still, Betty Anne charges forward with unthinkable patience. Swank plays her with sincere gumption, and she’s helped along by a talented cast, including Sam Rockwell as Kenny, Melissa Leo as a bitter cop and Juliette Lewis as a trashy witness.

Though it is a movie about a remarkable story, “Conviction” is not necessarily a remarkable movie.

Betty Anne is almost too unflappable, and there are one too many childhood flashbacks to Kenny and Betty Anne’s days as candy-stealing vagabonds.

It might have behooved the movie to do away with such soft-focus details and concentrate more on the legal journey. Still, if you don’t mind the glossy treatment, “Conviction” is a moving, important film that casts a spotlight on the travesty of wrongful convictions.

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