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TIFF ’10: Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell face a “Conviction”

By Sean O’Connell

Hollywoodnews.com: We continue to preview anticipated titles screening at the 35th Toronto International Film Festival in our “Road to Toronto” feature.

The fest kicks off on Sept. 9, and HollywoodNews.com will be on the ground bringing you reviews, interviews, and a clearer glimpse at the ever-shifting Oscar race.

To read our previous preview columns, punch “TIFF” into our search window. Today, a two-time Oscar winner puts herself through law school in an attempt to overturn her brother’s conviction.

Conviction

The Plot: When Betty Anne Waters’ (Hilary Swank) older brother Kenny (Sam Rockwell) is arrested for murder and sentenced to life in 1983, the Massachusetts wife and mother of two dedicates her life to overturning the murder conviction.

The Director: Tony Goldwyn

The Cast: Hilary Swank, Minnie Driver, Sam Rockwell, Melissa Leo, Loren Dean

The Scoop: So many successful dramas have found their inspirations in true-life situations, and few stories are more powerful or courageous than Waters’ actual struggle. The lawyer lives in New England and continues to work to free wrongfully convicted criminals. Meanwhile, on the cinematic side of “Conviction,” Hilary Swank strikes me as a wise choice to breathe life into Betty Anne’s blue-collar determination, and Sam Rockwell should shine as Kenny. I’d almost fear that “Conviction” could tip into movie-of-the-week territory, but Goldwyn has shown in “A Walk on the Moon” and the recent “Last Kiss” that he’s fully capable of avoiding any such melodramatic pitfalls.

Awards Potential: It’s rarely smart to bet against Swank, one of the few two-time Oscar-winning actors still working in the industry. If her portrayal of Waters comes anywhere close to Maggie Fitzgerald (“Million Dollar Baby”) or Brandon Teena (“Boys Don’t Cry”), then a third nomination could be in the cards. Also, don’t count out Rockwell, who has shown tremendous range on screen – he stole chunks of “Iron Man 2” away from Robert Downey Jr. — and has a juicy role mapped out for him as Betty Anne’s imprisoned sibling.

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