One suspects Ashley Judd could have had a better career. Though the pickings were no doubt slim for an up-and-coming screen star, she nevertheless accepted too many poor options that allowed her talent to be exploited and, worse, ossified to the point where her fundamental ability came into question. At the time of her woman-in-jeopardy thriller High Crimes, she thought she was Catwoman-in-waiting (as she liked to remind us in all her press), but we all know how that worked out. Perhaps the fact that High Crimes finds the taut-faced Judd on autopilot contributed to her reversal of fortune. The two things working for High Crimes are director Carl Franklin--best known for the mystery-thrillers Devil in a Blue Dress and One False Move--and Morgan Freeman. Freeman, unlike his pal Judd, seems incapable of phoning in a bad performance, no matter how lazy the script.
Judd plays Claire Kubik, a high-powered lawyer who suddenly finds her seemingly perfect husband Tom (Jim Caviezel) accused of murder by the U.S. Army. Despite the arcane procedures of military court, who better to defend him than his tenacious wife? But the more she finds out (!), the more she wonders what she's gotten herself into (!), which seems to be a military conspiracy (!!), perhaps masterminded by the general played by all-purpose slimeball Bruce Davison (!). Oh, and Claire's ne'er-do-well sister (Amanda Peet) is around (apparently solely to add slutty sex appeal). Baby-faced Adam Scott provides more chuckles as her prey, the defender assigned to Tom...or is Tom's real name...Ron (!!!)?
Despite my aversion to derivative, lazy, and improbable thrillers, I'd be lying if I said High Crimes had no pulp entertainment value. Franklin keeps things juiced with his dynamic camera, and even though his character (and much of the script) feels like warmed-over Anatomy of a Murder, Freeman brings a well-worn grace to the role of Charles Grimes, an alcoholic lawyer in private practice. Kudos also to the always affecting Caviezel (he always looks as if he's been hit on the head with a brick, but it works). However, someone should tell this famously and deeply religious actor--who refused to film his love scene unless both he and Judd were fully dressed--not to choose sleazy scripts like this one. Then again, someone should tell Franklin and Freeman the same thing.
High Crimes looks splendid in its Blu-ray debut, with a film-like but unobtrusive grain structure and exceptional detail. There's a touch of dust and dirt to the print source, and an occasional flash of noise or wavering contrast, but on the whole this well-tuned transfer delivers pleasing color and sharpness. Certainly this film will never sound better than it does in its surprisingly full DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix; while this is mostly a talky thriller, the surround balance is nicely done, and when the action does kick in, it packs a wallop.
Ported over from DVD are a nice collection of bonus features, beginning with a commentary by director Carl Franklin. Franklin makes pleasant company, and he's chatty enough to keep the track reasonably active with production details from start to finish.
"A Military Mystery" (7:22, SD) is a conversation with author Joe Finder, in which he discusses how apparently pleased he is to see his story come to life on screen.
"FBI Takedown in Union Square" (3:34, SD) incorporates comments by FBI consultant Sue Doucette, though it's mostly brief but interesting B-roll of the shoot.
In "A Different Kind of Justice" (4:58, SD), attorney Alice Cate explains the ins and outs of court martial cases.
"Liar Liar: How to Beat a Polygraph with Sue Doucette" (5:52, SD) delivers on its promise, though in somewhat veiled terms. Doucette largely endorses the usefulness of the polygraph as an interrogation technique, despite its demonstrable inaccuracy.
"The Car Crash" (2:04, SD) finds Franklin guiding us through B-roll footage of the film's main stunt.
"Together Again" (7:31, SD) focuses on the repeat teaming of Judd and Freeman (and their individual merits), with comments from the dynamic duo themselves, Franklin, producer Janet Yang, Jim Caviezel, Adam Scott, and producer Jesse B'Franklin.
Last up is the film's "Theatrical Trailer" (2:27, SD)
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