High Crimes

When a relationship in a movie is so perfect, like the one between loving couple Claire and Tom Kubik, it is clear indication that something is very wrong. In High Crimes, based on the novel by Joseph Finder, Claire (Ashley Judd, Someone Like You, Where the Heart Is) her husband in a military court. They are accusing him of the murder of nine South American villagers years ago during a covert operation. Tom (Jim Caviezel, The Count of Monte Cristo, Angel Eyes) insists that he is innocent, even though he changed his identity to escape the charges. In actuality, he is Ronald Chapman, and the fact that he lied to Claire about this basic fact is enough to begin a small seed of doubt. Surprises and twists are abundant in an otherwise standard courtroom thriller, notable both good acting and a many expected "surprise" plot twists. This is also a reteaming of Judd and Freeman (they starred in Kiss the Girls together).

Claire is an attorney, but not well-versed in military law. The court assigns neophyte Lt. Terrence Embry (Adam Scott, Seven and a Match, Off the Lip) to the case. He is going against Maj. Waldron (Michael Gaston, Thirteen Days, Bless the Child), a seasoned prosecutor. Claire vows to get on the case, and hires Charles Grimes (Freeman, Along Came a Spider, Nurse Betty). Grimes has experience winning cases against the military, but is now a recovering alcoholic. Tom claims there is a conspiracy against him, and the more that Claire and Grimes investigate, the stranger the facts seem. A number of witnesses against Tom are mysteriously dead, and people seem like they are trying to harm Claire, Embry, and Grimes.

Nothing is what it seems, and adapters Yuri Zeltser (Black and White, Playmaker) and Cary Bickley (The Gun in Betty Lou's Handbag) do their best to keep the viewer guessing, but the problem is every twist is painfully obvious. Mostly because nothing is new, it's all been done many times before. This is no different from the multitude of court dramas that appear every year, the only difference is this one takes place in a military court. Director Carl Franklin (One True Thing, Devil in a Blue Dress) does his best to jerk the audience back and forth. For a while, it is enjoyable, but becomes tiring after a while. Worst is the final twist. The movie should have ended about fifteen minutes before it actually did. The last twist undermines much of what happened prior to it. It is a surprise, but renders the rest of the film illogical.

Judd and Freeman do work well together, and watching them interact does make the film a little more enjoyable. Freeman is one of the best actors around, and he effortlessly slips into the role of Grimes. Grimes is always hiding something up his sleeve, and will purposefully say things to incur the wrath of the prosecution. Judd, again playing a woman in danger (okay, only part of the time) is strong in her role, but, like Freeman, needs to work within the confines of the script. Caviezel is at his befuddled usual, and shame on Amanda Peet (Saving Silverman, Whipped) for a pointless role.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 55 minutes, Rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content, and language.

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