High Crimes Movie Review

What confidence we have in our American justice system to expose an endless procession of corrupt government officials in stupid political thrillers. High Crimes is no different. It's another military drama where some unlikely guy is arrested and charged with military crimes. Everyone knows these movies inside, outside, front, and back, but Hollywood continues to spit them out, each time using a different gimmick.

Here, the gimmick is that the attorney of the accused is his wife. She's Claire Kubik, played by Ashley Judd. This actress perspires such engaging charisma, it's a shame to see her stuck in such tedious, enormously predictable material. So it's no surprise to find that Claire is married to Tom (James Caviezel), who, unbeknownst to his wife, is an ex-military man who has a few skeletons in his closet.

Before the audience can even process the horrid character development, good old Tom finds himself behind bars on suicide watch. The military has accused him of multiple murders. The prosecutors are prestigious and powerful, and, of course, Tom is stuck with a rookie defender. Frustrated beyond belief, Claire decides to defend her husband, who looks at her with big, innocent eyes and pleads for her to stay out of the case.

The plot involves a massacre in a Latin American town and the cover-up surrounding it. Claire believes her husband's innocent claims. After all, why would such a wonderful man kill innocent civilians? Obviously, he has been framed by the government. Charlie even volunteers to take a lie-detector test, not for legal reasons, but to earn his wife's trust.

The most surprising thing about this test is that Tom actually passes it. In movies like this, characters only volunteer for these things when they are not going to pass. But the film makes up for this mistake when later, in the supermarket, a miscellaneous character approaches Claire to inform her that it is possible to pass polygraphs and lie. (Why is this surprising to a lawyer? This isn't even a surprise to a 12-year-old.) She then confronts her husband about this, only for him to sarcastically say that he did do the killings, then for her to admit that her accusation makes no sense. Confused yet?

Since she doesn't know her way around military justice, she enlists another lawyer (Morgan Freeman) as co-counsel. He's supposedly a good mind for defense, but that's when he's not drunk out of his mind.

High Crimes miscasts nearly every leading character. Freeman is a fish out of water as a drunk, worn-out lawyer. He's an actor who needs powerful, active roles, not flimsy, reactive throwaway characters. And who would cast a sex symbol like Amanda Peet as a street trash side character?

The one bright spot is that Caviezel is the right choice for Charlie. He's really good at playing innocent people accused of crimes. But this role is becoming all too familiar for him. Didn't he just play somebody like this in The Count of Monte Cristo, released just a few months ago?

The story offers few surprises. It goes through the typical political thriller routine, complete with an expected twist at the end. Curiously, this twist doesn't work, either. The information revealed should have been available--and obvious--at the beginning of the film, and the audience knows it. Why don't the characters catch on sooner? Good question. These guys are so stupid it's a wonder that they aren't paying to watch us.

Ashley, your agent called. He wants your career back.


High Crimes Rating

" Terrible "

Rating: PG-13, 2002


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