| Going into this film I genuinely felt it might be okay.
Yes, yes I know, Iím naÔve, an irrational optimist, a Pollyanna.
I should have known better than to trust a film with a drab,
generic title like High Crimes. That any rational person
would, and should, automatically dismiss this film from its
overheated trailers that suggest it to be nothing more than
another slick, legal thriller where witty, attractive lawyers
outfox some ruthless, military fascists. Oh yeah, and itís being
released in April, which puts it smack dab in the middle of
what is usually the major studiosí dump season. (Thatís right:
The fact that Resident Evil, Sorority Boys, and Showtime
all opened within a week of one another is not really a coincidence.)
Alright, so all signs point to schlock, but let me tell
you why I was cautiously optimistic. First off, the director
of this film, Carl Franklin, helmed one the best little thrillers
of the í90s, One False Move, and to his credit he moves
this film along at a brisk pace. He keeps scenes from boiling
over into melodramatic overkill and even manages some subtly
creepy scenes early on.
The other reason I had some faith in this film was Ashley
Juddís involvement. Sheís not really a great actress, doesnít
have much range, but given the right role she can easily transcend
the limits of a minted starlet like Julia Roberts, who has
nothing more to offer than a fake smile. Ashley Judd can actually
play a fast-talking, ace lawyer without it seeming too absurd.
So it could have worked, and did for a while. It holds your
attention for at least the first hour as we watch the perfect
world of Claire Kubik fall apart, when her husband Tom (Caviezel)
is arrested by the military for allegedly committing a massacre
while he was a soldier operating in El Salvador. Claire decides
to stand by her man and fight the military establishment with
the help of a rookie army lawyer (Scott), a brilliant but
alcoholic lawyer (Freeman), and a smart-ass talking dog.
Okay, really thereís no talking dog, but it might have been
an improvement over Freeman, who sleepwalks his way though
yet another role as the benevolent, all-knowing, old pro.
Heís become a caricature of dignity and warmth. Although really,
I donít think anyone could enliven dialogue like, ďI love
being the wild card.Ē
Claire and her friends take on the case, and are tormented
endlessly by military goons who use all sorts of intimidation
and manipulation to make them crack so they wonít uncover
the big conspiracy. Yeah, definitely formulaic, but itís well-made.
As I said Judd is more than competent, and the rest of the
supporting cast is strong, particularly Caviezel, as the husband
with the mysterious past. So itís looking like itís going
to end up on the plus side of average until the end, where
we are served up one of the most ridiculous, implausible plot
twists in recent memory; a twist that invalidates and makes
absurd the actions of almost everyone in the movie. Then,
to add insult to injury, we get an inane, cutesy epilogue
to choke on. So in the spirit of that noxious little closer
let me end by suggesting the makers of High Crimes
should be found guilty and sentenced to death.