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High Crimes Movie Review

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Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd reunite in High Crimes, a movie that isn't quite as good as their original effort, Kiss the Girls, but still has a good enough story to keep itself motivated.

Judd stars as a San Francisco attorney who suddenly finds herself having to defend her husband (Jim Caviezel) in front of a military court after he is accused of killing nine civilians in El Salvador. She learns that her husband actually has another name and life in his past, and with the harsher laws of the military at play, she is forced to acquire a partner, an ex-Jag lawyer, played by the venerable Morgan Freeman. As the two look for a way to beat the odds, they begin to uncover a military cover up and scandal, one that is willing to silence them for good.

High Crimes is a paradox. It is a legal thriller, yet it has very little courtroom drama. I was quite surprised and a little disappointed, since, when done right, courtroom scenes can be exceptionally entertaining. Instead, the movie makes up for the lack of really intelligent content with a lot of semi-intelligent dialogue-driven scenes, and many moments where the characters are nearly killed. There is a lot of courtroom planning but very little courtroom action, which is an indication that the writer didn't exactly know what he was doing, but nevertheless, the writer is still able to whip out a decent thriller with some good scenes.

Freeman, like always, is fun to watch. He is one of the few actors that generally plays a very similar character in every movie, yet never gets tiresome to watch. He chooses a bad movie here and there, but he is a shining light nonetheless. Thankfully, his talent isn't wasted too much here, although it is a little bit. Ashley Judd, on the other hand, has a rockier career. She is smart on screen but not very smart in choosing movies; since Kiss the Girls, had she chosen her path wisely, she could have been one of the leading actresses today. Instead, she bounces around from mediocre film to mediocre film, choosing a really good one here and there and that's about it. Double Jeopardy was a success but it was a terrible movie; High Crimes is much better, but it basically flopped in theaters. What gives? Anyway, she does a pretty good job as well, carrying her tough-and-smart girl routine into the legal world, while still getting a chance to run around and have a little hand-to-hand combat from time to time.

High Crimes is an entertaining film, but suffers the same flaws that many other thrillers do: convenience and predictability. These lawyers must be really lucky, because they are given so many convenient breaks through the film that it is hard to count. Freeman just happens to record a conversation in where a witness spills the beans on the cover up that is going on. Judd is given a chance to speak with a person that was there at the time of the incident. She just happens to keep track of both her and her husband's movements for the last five years. The flaws aren't super obvious, but they add up over time.

The predictability is what really knocks the movie flat. Right after the final courtroom scene, if people can't see what's coming next then they must be blind, stupid and deaf. While most of High Crimes makes the ending unclear, the director gives away the climax just a little too soon, and blows it for everyone. Had he waited another five minutes to reveal things, all would be good. But, alas, he did not, and things are not all good.

High Crimes suffers from a predictable and cliche ending, but other than that is a decent thriller. It is not super intelligent, nor is it incredibly suspenseful, but it kept my attention and had me entertained, and that is all that I was expecting, all that I was asking for.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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