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High Crimes
cast: Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman, James Caviezel, Adam Scott, and Amanda Peet

director: Carl Franklin

115 minutes (12) 2002
20th Century Fox VHS rental
Also available to rent on DVD
[released 24 March]

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Robin Landry
High Crimes is the story of successful lawyer Claire Kubrik (Ashley Judd, from Kiss The Girls) who defends her husband against the military crime of slaughtering eight civilians in El Salvador. As the movie progresses, Claire is uncertain of just who her husband really is and if he really did commit the crime he is accused of. Since she's a civilian lawyer, Claire is partnered with Embry (Adam Scott) a young military officer who's never won a case. Uncertain of her new partner, Claire hires ex-military lawyer Charlie Grimes, a current alcoholic spending his days defending prostitutes. Claire's no-account sister joins in on the act and soon sets up her own psychic hotline out of Claire's rented house and sleeps with the young military lawyer. Why Claire puts up with her sister is a mystery but then again, so is much of this picture.
   Claire's husband, Tom Kubrick (Jim Caviezel, Count Of Monte Cristo) plays his part well, he looks so good you just want him to be innocent, but he and Claire just seem too darned happy for it to last. There is no way you can believe he'd be psychotic enough to massacre eight people just for the fun of it but then again, he did lie to his wife about who he really is.
   While I think Ashley Judd is an appealing actress, lovely as they come and certainly outstanding at times, in High Crimes, she falls flat. Maybe it's this movie's fault. Her character is uneven. One minute tough as we'd expect any woman lawyer to be, at other times she's afraid of a truck travelling slowly behind her in broad daylight. I wondered why Claire didn't notice that she was the one walking down the middle of the road and that the truck was going slow because it would have otherwise had to run over her. Claire doesn't look to see who's in the truck, she just jumps onto the sidewalk (which she should have been using in the first place) and runs hysterically to a stranger's house and bangs on the door. The man who answers the door looks far more dangerous than the middle-aged woman driving the truck that Claire is so frightened of.
   Charlie Grimes (Morgan Freeman, Kiss The Girls) is the alcoholic ex-military lawyer who works the case with Claire. While usually Freeman is above reproach as an actor, in this movie he's given the impossible task of being believable. Maybe it's because we don't hear any of Charlie's past, why he's no longer in the military, why he's considered a wild card, why he's now an alcoholic that makes us doubt his character. Claire's sister (Amanda Peet, Changing Lanes) plays her part to the hilt, playing the bad girl who still manages to get herself an officer and a gentleman in the end. Not to give away the end, but Claire who plays by the rules, should be so lucky.
   The whole plot is one we've heard before. Military does bad thing in foreign country and then covers it up so those in charge can go on with their careers. Carl Franklin does a fine job directing this movie but I think the old adage still holds true, 'if it ain't on the page then it ain't on the stage'.