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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » High Crimes
High Crimes
Fox // PG-13 // August 27, 2002
List Price: $27.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Aaron Beierle | posted August 7, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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B>The Movie:


I'm curious when Ashley Judd will find material that's worthy of her talents. While "High Crimes" provides the actress with the chance to offer her most commanding performance in recent years, it's also a bit too familar after all her recent dramas. The material itself, another courtroom thriller set in the military, largely is satisfied to take from similar films that have come before it. It's well-acted, beautifully filmed and occasionally tense, but it doesn't have quite what it takes to be a memorable picture.

Judd plays Claire Kubik, a tough San Fransisco lawyer who's just about to be made partner. She and husband Tom (Jim Caviezel) are having a fine time, shown having dinner out and shopping and also, trying to make a baby. Soon enough, the couple is ambushed on an otherwise lovely evening by FBI agents, who have come to arrest him on charges of killing civilians in a mission-gone-wrong years earlier when he was an elite Marine.

When she finds herself stuck with a rookie as co-defender, she enlists the help of Charlie Grimes (Morgan Freeman), an ex-military lawyer who lost his job due to alcoholism. Her husband - who may have kept some secrets from his wife - insists upon his innocence. What follows is the usual procedure of surprise facts, sudden scares, some fake scares and the occasional twist.

The film is, as I noted before, not terribly original. However, it does boast a fine cast that it does use to the best of its abilities. Although the character is not richly developed, Judd hits the dialogue with more bite than she has with her previous roles and brings a more dynamic and bold presence. Caviezel, a terribly bland actor (see his inability to carry this year's "Count of Monte Cristo" or his no-energy performance in "Angel Eyes") actually uses his lack of energy well in this role to keep the audience unsure of his guilt or innocence, even if the film remains pretty predictable. Freeman's good but, he's such a terrific actor that this kind of thin role seems awfully easy to him. I was very pleased to see Amanda Peet ("Whole Nine Yards") as Claire's flirty sister. While the character doesn't have any point (she seems as if she's walked in from some romantic comedy), Peet is always fun and entertaining to watch act. Judd and Peet also managed to make believable sisters.

Technically, the film is generally superb. Theo Van De Sande ("Blade", "Cruel Intentions")'s glossy widescreen cinematography manages to be both slick and rich, while the production design and editing are also solid. On a negative note, Graeme Revell's score is pretty obvious, loudly announcing an upcoming tense moment.

Overall, "High Crimes" manages to rise above the material thanks to capable of actors who are able to pull it above average. Still, without stronger material, the film doesn't manage to become memorable and instead, coasts along as passable entertainment.


The DVD


VIDEO: 20th Century Fox presents "High Crimes" in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Theo Van De Sande's rich, golden-hued cinematography translates wonderfully to the small screen with Fox's lovely transfer, easily one of their finest recent efforts. Sharpness and detail are marvelous, as the picture appeared consistently sharp and finely detailed, with a smooth, "film-like" appearance.

There was only one flaw present: edge enhancement. While not seen often or ever terribly irritating, edge enhancement was still noticable in a handful of scenes. On a positive note, the print used was crystal clear, with not a speck or mark to be found. No pixelation or other faults were spotted, either.

Colors appeared wonderfully reproduced, looking vivid, warm and well-saturated, with no smearing or other faults. Black level was solid, while flesh tones remained accurate. Very nice work.


SOUND: On the other hand, "High Crimes" boasts a less-than-interesting Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation. Given that this is a courtroom thriller, much of the movie is simply dialogue-driven, with no real chances for considerable surround use. Still, there are a few outdoor scenes which could have benefited from a bit more ambience. Unfortunately, Graeme Revell's loud, obvious score gets a bit too much presence in the soundtrack. Overall, an okay soundtrack.

MENUS: Sub-menus are non-animated and basic, but the animated main menu does put clips to fair use as backgrounds.

EXTRAS: Note: Some online retailers have noted that this release would include commentary from stars Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman. I took this to mean scene-specific commentary for a couple of sequences, such as Fox did with the stars of "Don't Say A Word" for that DVD. Unfortunately, no such feature is included on this DVD. Probably mis-information on the part of the retailers or possibly a feature that was not able to be included, it isn't found here. Still, this release offers a commentary and six nicely done featurettes.

Commentary: This is a full-length audio commentary from director Carl Franklin. Browsing through the track, I found that Franklin provided a largely enjoyable and informative discussion of the production. He spent a fair amount of time talking about the score and the songs included, as well as the fact that many were from his own collection. Locations are also discussed, as well as some technical and actor details. It's a relaxed and informative discussion that I found involving.

A Millitary Mystery: This is a fantastic 7 1/2 minute featurette that only offers an interview with author Joe Finder. His interview about the translation of his novel to the screenplay is funny, honest and informative. He even talks about his experiences as an extra in the picture. This is definitely a supplement worth checking out.

Takedown in Union Square: This featurette offers a look at all aspects of one particular sequence early in the picture. Interviews from the film's FBI consultant and members of the crew are offered, along with an enjoyable amount of behind-the-scenes footage, even including an amused-looking Judd.

A Different Kind Of Law: This is a nearly 5-minute featurette that takes a look at the differences between Civilian and Military law).

Liar, Liar: This is a featurette that focuses on polygraph testing in general, as well as some discussion of the faults of the polygraph tests and how some have been trained to try and fake the tests.

Car Crash: Similar to the Union Square featurette, this is a short look at the production of one particular scene. Judd gets a laugh with a line early in the proceedings.

Together Again: Freeman and Judd discuss working together again after "Kiss the Girls".

Also: The film's theatrical trailer.


Final Thoughts: "High Crimes" is a slick and basically entertaining thriller with strong performances from Judd and Freeman, who unfortunately are working with fairly familar material. 20th Century Fox's DVD edition provides excellent video quality, good audio and fine supplements. Those who enjoyed the picture in the theater should seek a purchase; those who haven't seen it and are interested should check it the film as a rental first.

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