Based on a true story, and it’s an incredible one. Betty Ann (Hilary Swank) and her brother (Sam Rockwell) are very close. They come from trailer trash, their mother was good at getting pregnant and nothing else. They had seven siblings, and the nine of them had seven different fathers. (Sounds like a Grimm fairy tale, doesn’t it? With emphasis on the grim.) He is convicted of murder, sentenced to life. She sets out to free him … and 18 years later …. To understand just what an uphill battle it was, consider that before she got her law degree she had to get her GED. So a lot of time is compressed into just a few scenes. There’s really no need to insert a spoiler warning here. Did you think they would have made the movie if she failed? Like a lot of others, he is exonerated by DNA blood evidence, which was saved through sheer luck, and found by sheer determination. The movie demonstrates that prosecutors can be just as scummy as defense attorneys when pursuing a case. (In this case, a policewoman as well.) Once they decide you’re guilty, practically nothing will stop them, not even incontrovertible evidence. The DA when the new blood work was finished, a scumbag Democrat named Martha Coakley (who later managed to lose her bid for Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat in one of the most Democratic states in the Union, that’s how appealing she is) refused to let Kenny go until Barry Scheck told her how it was all going to play in the New York Times and the Boston Globe. What the movie neglects to tell you at the end is the sad story of Kenny. Six months after getting out he died in a fall. At least his daughter reaped some millions from the false imprisonment and the lawbreaking by the State.
Movies like this make us feel good, and I’m no exception, but there is an uneasy background noise for me. It’s like movies that imply that disabled people can do absolutely anything if they just approach it with determination. That’s a total lie; some people accomplish miraculous things, most of us are not up to that. And a blind man is never going to be a race car driver. These stories of people who accomplish miracles lead us to believe that determination is all it takes, and it’s not. Betty Ann was, and is, an incredibly hard worker, but she got lucky. If the box of evidence had not been misplaced, the story would have ended right there. Dead end, so sorry, there is now no way to prove his innocence. So there’s some basic dishonesty here. And I have to say that a movie that never has you wondering what the outcome will be is a hard thing to get excited about. But I did enjoy the story.