Monday, April 8, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 125


Freeman, Judd justify price of 'High Crimes'

High Crimes has the Hollywood stamp of approval all over it as two stars are featured in a genre that does considerably well.

While most moviegoers may be reluctant to think yet another celebrity duo will offer the slightest form of entertainment, Crimes comes along and sort
of sways those ideas.

Photo courtesy of 20th Century Fox

From left, Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman star in the new drama High Crimes, directed by Carl Franklin.

Morgan Freeman and Ashley Judd's High Crimes is the latest military courtroom drama that offers a few suspenseful scenes that get a bit predictable
by the film's end. But so long as the talented Freeman is there to keep us entertained, the movie stays decent.

It follows Judd's character, Claire Kubik, a lawyer who just won a big case and is looking to start a family with her husband, Tom (Jim Caviezel).

Trouble looms when he is suddenly arrested for charges that stem from his military life, which ended a few years earlier he and his platoon went on
a covert mission and one of them killed a handful of women and children in the heat of war.

As everyone in his platoon points to Tom, Claire and her new law partner, Charlie (Freeman) a recovering alcoholic who gets kicks out of messing
with the military set out to find the truth.

Director Carl Franklin's work isn't all that bad, but a few scenes could have been cut out or edited better to make the film sharper.

A number of shots blatantly give clues about where the film is leading. Just pay attention and the latter half of the film won't be much of a surprise (but it
will still be entertaining).

Also, by the middle of the film, Freeman's and Judd's characters have been knocked around so much by that darn military that wants to keep the truth
under wraps that the black eyes and neck braces become old news and almost humorous, instead of having any dramatic effect.

These situations could have been tighter, which would have made Crimes more suspenseful.

As for the film's writing, which is based on Joseph Finder's novel of the same title, it could have also been cleaned up a bit, but it's enough to get by.

This isn't the best courtroom story, either. The premise is sketchy and it branches out into other plots to where the finger-pointing begins and the red
herrings start to smell.

But if you can get by a few false endings, the story will stay entertaining.

Audiences will be wondering until the end whether Caviezel's character is lying to his better half or if he's being sincere and really is being framed by
heads of the military to cover up the secret mission.

It doesn't help matters that Caviezel has that dry look about him that one can never tell whether he's a good or bad guy in the few films he's done. His
acting in Crimes is exceptionally good considering the film relies on Caviezel's performance the most when it comes to keeping audiences guessing.

Judd does well with the role of the struggling wife who can't decide who to believe, but insists on standing by her man.

With Someone Like You and this film to her credit, her acting has clearly improved. Only next time, Judd had better choose some different material
before audiences lose sympathy for her tears.

Judd in the role of the strong woman who gets pushed around isn't new to her, and if she takes on another such role, her performances will start
coming off like one in a movie of the week.

Does Freeman ever grow tired of saving films with his compelling and genuine acting style?

Just look at the films he did in 1989. There's the civil war drama Glory, in which he played the elder slave aside Denzel Washington, who put on an
award-winning performance. There's also the unforgettable story about the ruthless yet devoted principal in Lean on Me. And finally, he chauffeured
Jessica Tandy in Driving Miss Daisy, for which he earned an Academy Award nomination.

Freeman didn't necessarily save the aforementioned films, but to be a part of such memorable movies was a sign of things to come for the actor.

Since then, Freeman has excelled at chewing up the screen and improves a film's worth, regardless of who shares the scene.

But the fact that Freeman continues to settle for average material is frustrating since he can do more than hold his own in better roles.

And without Freeman's supporting role in Crimes, these performances and the writing and directing efforts would have resulted in a mediocre movie.

Instead, the drama unfolds more decently and delivers just enough to earn the price of the ticket.

High Crimes

*** (out of five stars)

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd

20th Century Fox

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