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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Conviction

February 12th, 2011

Conviction - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Conviction came out in limited release in the mid-October of this year, which is a great time for an Awards Season contender. It's based on a real life story, which is a subject matter that voters tend to love. It stars Hilary Swank, who has won two Oscars, as well as Minnie Driver and Melissa Leo, both of whom have earned Oscar nominations. I think it's safe to say this film was Oscar bait. It didn't earn any nominations, but does that mean it isn't worth checking out? Or is it merely not award-worthy?

The Movie

It's kind of hard to discuss the plot of this movie, as revealed to the audience, because it tends to bounce around a lot in time, at least early on. While this feature makes the film a lot more compelling to watch, I'm going to deconstruct some of it to get the synopsis to a much more coherent place.

Hillary Swank and Sam Rockwell play play siblings who, due to a rather inattentive mother, grow up with only each other to look out for them. This has led Kenny to have...let's just say impulse control issues. Back in 1980, Katharina Brow is brutally murdered and as Kenny has a long history with the police, he's picked up. It takes three years, but he's eventually tried and convicted of murder. When he loses his appeal, and tries to kill himself, which is when Betty Anne decides to dedicate her life to proving her brother's innocence, even if that means becoming a lawyer herself. But that will take sacrifice, a whole lot of sacrifice.

I think the worst thing you can say about this film is that the script it a little conventional, outside the "in medias res" opening and the flashbacks to Betty Anne and Kenny's childhood. Occasionally it felt like the filmmaker had a checklist they were going through and once they touched on a subject (the trial, Betty Anne's decision to go to law school, etc.) they had to move on without giving these parts the depth they needed. However, this was compensated for by the number of excellent performances. Hillary Swank was the only one to earn a major award nomination, but Sam Rockwell, Minnie Driver, and Melissa Leo, were all great in their roles.

The film does borrow a little too liberally from the collection of underdog and wrongfully convicted genre shortcuts and there are a few scenes that are emotionally manipulative instead of just emotional. This is enough to prevent it from being truly Oscar worthy, but there's a huge gap between Oscar worthy and avoidable, and this film lands much closer to the high end of the scale.

The Extras

The extras on the DVD include ten-minute featurette with the director, Tony Goldwyn, and the real life Betty Anne Waters. It's part behind-the-scenes featurette, and part interview featurette and very compelling to watch. Unfortunately, it's the only extra on the DVD or the Blu-ray.

Also, the audio and video on the Blu-ray are far from reference material. They are not terrible, but the audio track is uncomplicated, while the video is not exactly flashy. It's what you would expect for a dialogue driven, relatively low budget drama.

Finally, we get to the price, which is not a selling point either. The Blu-ray costs 33% more than the DVD according to the list price, but on, the DVD costs just $14 while the Blu-ray costs $23. That's far too much for a release like this.

The Verdict

I think it is fair to say Conviction was made to win awards, and while it wasn't able to, it is still worth checking out and even with light extras, the DVD will be worth picking up for a lot of people. On the other hand, Blu-ray costs too much and it doesn't offer enough in terms of exclusive extras or technical specs to pay an additional 60% more.

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Filed under: Video Review, Conviction