Since I’m too burned out from not sleeping well for the past 3 days, I’ll catch up with Revenge and 666 Park Avenue tomorrow. For now, enjoy a movie review:
I remember the previews when this one came out. I am a huge Sam Rockwell fan, so I was ready to see it on that basis alone, despite the fact that I am not a Hilary Swank fan. However, me being either really busy or really broke at the time, I didn’t see it in theaters. Fortunately, we get HBO.
The story, based on true events, follows a brother and sister, Kenny and Betty Anne Waters (played by Rockwell and Swank respectively), through over fifteen years of a battle with the legal system. Kenny is imprisoned for life for the murder of a young woman, and despite the evidence presented, Betty Anne knows in her heart that Kenny didn’t do it. She takes it upon herself to clear his name. She puts herself through law school, and after years, she finally graduates and passes the bar.
With the advent of DNA testing, she tries to track down the original evidence including the perpetrator’s blood to test it against Kenny’s DNA. Amazingly, and against all odds, Kenny is finally freed from prison and his name is cleared.
This was a wonderful film. It has brilliant performances by Rockwell and Swank, as well as a supporting performance by Minnie Driver who’s always a joy to watch. The story is told in such a way that it keeps the suspense up–not knowing the original story, I couldn’t be sure if Kenny Waters would actually be found not guilty or released from prison. It is a great story about family and the bonds that tie us together.
What really got to me was Betty Anne’s dedication. Even when the appeals the investigation and the DNA testing became really difficult, she never gave up hope and persisted through all the obstacles put in her way in order to prove her brother’s innocence.
Having a philosophy background, I especially enjoy looking at issues like failures or problems in the legal system. Kenny Waters’ case originally took place during a time before investigators were able to test DNA evidence to identify suspects, perpetrators and victims. It was only by sheer luck that Betty Anne was able to recover the evidence from the case, as it had been marked to be destroyed at a point 15 years after the case was closed.
It was also fortunate that no death penalty existed in Massachusetts to punish individuals guilty of such crimes at the time of Kenny’s case or else he might have already been executed by the time his sister was able to test the evidence.
Kenny wasn’t a saint, but he was innocent of the crime he had been imprisoned for. This is a failure on the part of law enforcement and the legal system as a whole. Some cases are difficult to solve because of lack of evidence. That is one thing, but in this case, some headstrong investigators strong-armed a couple witnesses into manipulating the facts and perjuring themselves in order to convict Waters. That is just laziness.
No matter how sure you may be of somebody’s guilt, the law is the law and if you don’t have the evidence, coercion and bullying on the part of the law enforcement is abhorrent. It is an insult to the people that the laws are supposed to protect and is of no value to society. Imprisoning innocent people is useless and cruel. While I agree that it’s unfortunate that many criminals go free on technicalities, fudging the facts and gaming the system is not the answer.
One of the best things about film is that it can create a unique window into an issue. Many films like this are based on true events recorded and compiled in nonfiction books, but by bringing the story to life on screen with familiar faces and reenacting the drama of the story, it opens the issue to a much broader audience that it would have otherwise received in print.
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