Complete A-Z list



Stars: Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell, Minnie Driver, Juliette Lewis, Peter Gallagher, Melissa Leo, Clea DuVall, Marc Macaulay, Karen Young, Loren Dean, Talia Balsam, Ari Graynor, Bailee Madison, John Pyper-Ferguson, Jennifer Roberts

Director: Tony Goldwyn

This certainly is an inspirational true story but, though it does its stuff at the end, the screenplay doesn't quite pack the emotional punch it might have done.

Non-linear storytelling is partly to blame, leaving the first part of the film too fragmented instead of concentrating on a direct timeline. Once it does get cracking, however, the film quickly exerts a tighter hold, as Betty Anne Waters (Swank) stages an 18-year fight to free her brother Kenny (Rockwell), who has been wrongly convicted of murder - thanks to a cop (Leo) who strongarmed witnesses into giving false evidence.

After every appeal fails, Betty Anne resorts to going to law school, where she is befriended and encouraged by Abra Rice (Driver's best performance in quite a while). Together, they hunt for DNA or other evidence that might clear Kenny, serving life without parole, who, in his despair, attempts suicide in prison.

Swank gives a typically committed performance and, besides Driver, there's good supporting work also from Lewis and DuVall as two of the perjured witnesses. Tony Goldwyn's rather slack direction does rob the film of some of its forward momentum, but it will still get to you before the end.

(Sadly, what the film doesn't tell you is that Kenny only enjoyed a few months of freedom before dying tragically in a fall).

David Quinlan

USA 2010. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox (Fox Searchlight). Colour by Arri.
107 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 08 Jan 2011