Being achingly middlebrow and frustratingly mediocre, with a central performance from one of the hackiest, ham-fisted, overwrought and overrated women working in Hollywood today, playing one of the hackiest, ham-fisted and overwrought characters in movies this year (and yes, even though she is based on a real person, she is made out as a typical Hollywood character inside the movie's frame), actor-turned-director Tony Goldwyn's Conviction could have turned out to be one hot mess of a movie (and I suppose in many ways it would be if not so damned middle-of-the-road - a fate one could easily construe as being something much worse than just being a bad movie), but thanks to the (true) central performance of Mr. Sam Rockwell (someone who is quickly becoming one of this critic's favourite actors), playing a man wrongly convicted of murder and having to spend eighteen years behind bars for it, the film that would otherwise have sank into the most forgettable of mires, gets enough of a dose of the sad emotional brutality a film such as this needs to thrive (not to mention a possible Supporting Actor Oscar nomination), and therefore almost manages to save itself from the annals of inevitable and quite immediate disremembrance - almost.
Told in the quasi-linear way that many films are made today - many of them for no reason other than to seem artier than they really are (which may very well be the case here) - Goldwyn, who is probably best known for playing the villain in Ghost (though he did also direct the equally middlebrow and equally forgettable A Walk on the Moon and The Last Kiss - really, does anyone remember these?), takes another stab at filmmaking with what seems more a made-for-TV movie scenario than a legit theatrical release, if not for the supposed star power on the screen. As I stated earlier, Rockwell makes at least his part of the movie work - as does Juliette Lewis in a tiny but spectacularly well-played role as a semi-toothless white trash bimbo - but with such a hackneyed story as this (true or not - and some important details are left out - it is indeed quite hackneyed) and such an over-reaching and overwrought performance as Hilary Swank hands in (she, much like fellow over-the-topper Nic Cage, is better when she is playing the extraordinary, such as Brandon Teena in Boys Don't Cry or Amelia Earhart in Amelia) the rest of the tale ends up as mere middling mediocrity - and that is indeed a worse fate than actually being a bad movie. [12/12/10]