Conviction (2010 film)

Conviction is a 2010 biographical legal drama film directed by Tony Goldwyn, written by Pamela Gray, and starring Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell. The film premiered on September 11, 2010, at the Toronto International Film Festival[2] and was released in the US on October 15, 2010.[1]

Theatrical release poster
Directed byTony Goldwyn
Produced byAndrew Sugerman
Andrew S. Karsch
Tony Goldwyn
Written byPamela Gray
StarringHilary Swank
Sam Rockwell
Minnie Driver
Melissa Leo
Peter Gallagher
Juliette Lewis
Music byPaul Cantelon
CinematographyAdriano Goldman
Edited byJay Cassidy
Distributed byFox Searchlight Pictures
Release date
  • September 11, 2010 (2010-09-11) (TIFF)
  • October 15, 2010 (2010-10-15) (United States)
Running time
107 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$12.5 million[1]
Box office$9.7 million[1]


Betty Anne Waters' life revolves around her brother, who is now in jail for murder. Despite Kenny's knack for getting in trouble, they have always been close. After the murder, Kenny is initially brought in for questioning by Sergeant Nancy Taylor, but released. Two years later, based on new testimony from two witnesses, Kenny is arrested and tried. The evidence presented at Kenny's trial is entirely circumstantial, but he is convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. The three main witnesses against him are Sergeant Taylor, his ex-wife Brenda, and ex-girlfriend Roseanna.

Three years later, Betty Anne lives with her husband, Rick and two sons, Richard and Ben. She is frantic that she has not heard from Kenny, who calls her every week from prison, and finally discovers that he tried to commit suicide. Betty Anne decides to go back to school and become a lawyer so she can exonerate him, but her husband is skeptical and unsupportive, and eventually they split up. As Betty Anne struggles with being a working mother attending law school, flashbacks reveal that her mother was callous and uncaring, forcing Kenny and Betty Anne to fend for themselves. The two were very close, but frequently got into trouble, and were eventually taken away from their mother and sent to separate foster homes.

Betty Anne continues to visit Kenny in prison, working in a bar while going to school, but her busy schedule causes her to miss a planned outing with her sons, who decide they would be better off living with their father. Struggling in school, demoralized and exhausted, Betty Anne stops going to classes, until a friend from school, Abra, comes to her house and prods her to just get up, get dressed, and get back to class.

In a study group, Betty Anne learns about the new field of DNA testing and realizes that this could be the key to overturning Kenny's conviction, as only blood types had been matched at the time of the trial. She contacts attorney Barry Scheck from the Innocence Project. The backlog of cases will mean waiting at least 18 months unless she can pass the bar exam and find the blood evidence from Kenny's trial herself to have it tested. She passed the bar exam and now she is working hard to get her brother out of jail. At first she is stonewalled, then told the evidence was destroyed, but she refuses to give up, and she and Abra embark on an odyssey to recover any evidence that might still be stored away somewhere.

In the process, Betty Anne learns that Nancy Taylor was fired from the police department for fabricating evidence in another case, which deepens Betty Anne's suspicions about Kenny's conviction and the evidence presented at trial. She is told that the evidence has been moved to the courthouse but after 10 years it was destroyed. Refusing to give up, she and Abra travel to Ayer and personally ask the courthouse supervisor to look through the records and the evidence is found. The DNA results come back and establish that the blood was not Kenny's. Betty Anne and Kenny are overjoyed anticipating his release, but Martha Coakley, of the District Attorney's office, refuses to vacate the conviction, claiming that there was still enough evidence to convict Kenny as an accomplice. Kenny is convinced that no matter what, the authorities will find a way to keep him in prison to avoid admitting their mistake. Betty Anne is heartbroken again, but refuses to give up after Barry advises her that their discovery not only proves Kenny's innocence, but also that the main witnesses against him were lying.

Betty Anne, Abra, and Scheck visit the other two main trial witnesses, Kenny's ex-wife and his ex-girlfriend. Both tearfully confess that Sergeant Taylor coerced them into perjuring themselves at Kenny's trial. With an affidavit from Kenny's ex-wife and the DNA evidence, Kenny's conviction is vacated and he is freed from prison in June 2001. Betty Anne is able to persuade his daughter, Mandy, whom he hadn't had any contact with since she was a small child, that he never stopped trying to reach out to her while he was in prison. He is able to reconnect with his daughter, and is reunited with his sister and her sons.



Production began in February 2009, in Dexter, Michigan.[3][4] Filming also took place in Ann Arbor, Howell,[5] Pinckney,[5] Chelsea and Ypsilanti.[6][7] In Ypsilanti, filming took place in the historic Depot Town at a restaurant called Sidetrack Bar & Grill. In Howell, filming took place at the Livingston County Courthouse, along Dearborn Street at Cole's Elevator, and at the Howell Village Market (formerly Sefa's Super Market). The script was written by Pamela Gray. The poster was released June 21, 2010.[8]


The film score was composed by composer Paul Cantelon.

The end title song is "Heaven & Hell" by Cantelon's band, Wild Colonials. The song is a re-recording of the track that first appeared on their debut album, Fruit of Life and was released as a stand-alone single at the time of the film's release.


Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 67% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 184 reviews, with an average score of 6.2/10. The critical consensus reads "Less compelling – and more manipulative – than it should be, Conviction benefits from its compelling true story and a pair of solid performances from Swank and Rockwell."[9] Another review aggregator Metacritic assigned the film a weighted average score of 61 out of 100, indicating "generally positive reviews".[10]

Martha Coakley, Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, who was portrayed in the film, commented after seeing a pre-screening on October 12, 2010, that it was a compelling film but there were legal inaccuracies and temporal exaggerations.[11] Family members of Katharina Brow, the murder victim, have criticized the film company and Hilary Swank for failing to consult the family on the movie's depiction of their mother.[12] Betty Anne Waters stated that the Brow family did not try to make any contact with her or Kenneth Waters when he was exonerated, nor did they offer any condolences when he died. Kenneth died in September 2001, six months after his exoneration, due to a head injury he sustained in an accident.[13]


Year Award Category Nominee Result
2010 Broadcast Film Critics Association Award Best Supporting Actor Sam Rockwell Nominated
2010 Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role Hilary Swank Nominated
2010 Boston Society of Film Critics Award Best Supporting Actress Juliette Lewis Won

See also


  1. Conviction at Box Office Mojo
  2. Evans, Ian (2010). "Conviction premiere photos - 35th Toronto International Film Festival". DigitalHit. Retrieved 2012-04-10.
  3. Jay A. Fernandez (March 1, 2009). "Loren Dean joins Hilary Swank in 'Waters'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved March 14, 2009.
  4. Dave McNary (February 24, 2009). "Melissa Leo jumps into 'Waters'". Variety. Retrieved March 15, 2009.
  5. "Success Stories". Michigan Film Office. Archived from the original on June 27, 2016. Retrieved March 17, 2018.
  6. "Filming in Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor". YpsiNews. Archived from the original on March 26, 2012. Retrieved June 22, 2011.
  7. "Filming in Ann Arbor". MLive. MLive Media Group. Retrieved June 22, 2011.
  8. "Conviction Poster". The Film Stage. June 21, 2010. Archived from the original on June 27, 2010. Retrieved June 21, 2010.
  9. "Conviction (2010)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  10. "Conviction Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved October 21, 2010.
  11. Gelzinis, Peter (October 14, 2010). "Martha Coakley: Movie's 'inaccurate' but a 'delight'". The Boston Herald. Herald Media. Archived from the original on September 20, 2014. Retrieved March 17, 2018.
  12. Tourtellotte, Bob (October 14, 2010). "Hilary Swank film draws ire of victim's family". Reuters. Thomson Reuters. Retrieved March 17, 2018.
  13. Associated Press (September 19, 2001). "Nation in Brief". The Washington Post. The Washington Post Company. Retrieved March 17, 2018.

Further reading

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