High Crimes (2002) / Thriller-Mystery

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for violence, sexual content and language
Running Time: 115 min.

Cast: Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman, Jim Caviezel, Adam Scott, Amanda Peet
Carl Franklin
Screenplay: Yuri Zeltser, Grace Cary Bickley
Review published April 8, 2002

For all her attempts, I wonder if Ashley Judd will ever star in a good thriller sometime in her career.  Kiss the Girls, Eye of the Beholder, and Double Jeopardy have started a string of mediocre and predictable thrillers that, along with her latest endeavor, High Crimes, is going to make the name "Ashley Judd" synonymous with flawed suspensers. 

High Crimes, based on the novel by Joseph Finder, reunites Judd with Morgan Freeman (Along Came a Spider, Nurse Betty), but this is not another chapter in the Alex Cross series.  Rather, the characters are altogether different, with Judd playing a high-powered attorney whose life unravels when her husband is arrested and revealed to have hidden his true identity to her for years, and what's worse, is facing the death penalty in a military court for his alleged role in the murder of several innocent El Salvadorians.  Judd has a rough go of it, because military justice is much different than civilian, and enlists the services of ex-lush lawyer Freeman, a civilian that took on the military before and won. 

High Crimes runs smoothly and effortlessly for the first 45 minutes, setting up the film well.  Judd and Caviezel (The Count of Monte Cristo, Angel Eyes) deliver solid performances, and the supporting cast is colorful and well-rounded.  After the set-up, the road becomes bumpy, with the introduction of a needless character in Judd's nympho sister and an equally needless subplot revolving around her affair with the military attorney originally assigned to the case. 

Still, the film might have still been quality if it didn't delve into plot holes and a smart cast behaving idiotically at almost every turn.  Judd keeps returning to her home that upon every visit is found to have been broken into or is being closely watched by some scary-looking characters.  Then, there are several attempts to her life which, once you find out the complete story, makes absolutely no sense, raising many more questions than answers.  In the final insult to our intelligence, the last 20 minutes devolves into the kind of crap thriller endings that is neither thrilling nor interesting since we know what is going to happen long before. 

High Crimes is a bad film with good actors, and it just might seem credible enough due to the performances to entertain viewers who aren't as concerned with a tight plot than in good actors and melodrama.  Fans of Judd may also enjoy her strong role, although Freeman's part isn't meaty enough to leave a lasting impression.  Most everyone else may opt to catch this once it hits rental or cable TV, but if you miss out seeing this altogether, you aren't missing much.

Qwipster's rating:

2002 Vince Leo