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Fox Home Entertainment presents

High Crimes (2002)

"Military justice is to justice as military music is to music Mrs. Kubik. Wake up and smell the napalm."- Charlie Grimes (Morgan Freeman)

Stars: Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman
Other Stars: Jim Cavaziel, Amanda Peet, Bruce Davidson
Director: Carl Franklin

Manufacturer: DVDL
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for violence, sexual content and language
Run Time: 01h:55m:41s
Release Date: 2002-08-27
Genre: suspense thriller

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ C+A-B+ B


DVD Review

High Crimes is the cinematic equivalent to an old beaten up car given a fresh paint job and offered as "new." It is slickly made, features two terrific performances, and yet for all of this the film is nothing more than a by-the-numbers courtroom thriller complete with the standard shocking twists and turns that are designed to throw the viewer curves, but instead feel uninspired and routine.

Whether or not High Crimes would be a fine film without the immediate correlations to numerous other courtroom thrillers, there is still something lacking that makes this point negligible. The central plot of a woman fighting the system in the hopes of protecting her husband who may, or may not, be guilty of a horrible crime is potentially intriguing. Yet this script by Yuri Zeltser and Cary Bickley feels so downtrodden that, even with several nicely directed action set pieces, the film is stale and unexciting.

The weak plot follows Claire Kubik (Judd), an unpopular lawyer in San Francisco, is happily married to Tom (Caviezel). When the pair are interrupted while Christmas shopping by an FBI swat team, Claire is understandably confused as to why her loving husband is being led away in handcuffs. Soon, Claire discovers that Tom is not really who she knows him to be and is in fact a former member of the military, who now stands trial for the massacre of a group of innocent villagers in South America nearly a decade ago. Not knowing who to trust, Claire finds help in Charlie Grimes (Freeman), a lawyer who specializes in the military, whose drinking problem caused him to all but give up practicing law. With Charlie by her side, she begins to discover that, what may seem perfect on the surface is not always as it seems.

Director Carl Franklin (whose One True Thing and One False Move are films I greatly admire) does a nice job in his direction, but the weak script tends to make even the most positive aspect of the production moot. Cinematographer Theo Van De Sande (Blade) does terrific work with his cinematography, which helps create some very atmospheric scenes that work.

Aside from the work by Franklin and Van De Sande, the film's positive aspects are bolstered by the work of both Judd and Freeman. The two, who appeared together previously on Kiss The Girls, do such fine work that their scenes together, while brief, are highlights of the film. Judd continues to demonstrate her confidence with her tough-as-nails performance here and while her recent roles have been similar, watching her play off Freeman is a thrill. Freeman, who could give a riveting performance while reading the phonebook, does a nice job as the easy going Grimes, a role that is almost perfectly tailored for him. Supporting performances by Amanda Peet, Bruce Davison, and Jim Caviezel are one note with no real energy or spark.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: C+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: As is often the case with DVDs from Fox, the 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is of the highest quality. Colors, including Franklin's use of drab greens and amber hues to contrast the life of the military and civilian, are perfect with little bleeding, allowing the colors to jump off the screen with vibrancy. Sharpness and detail are perfect, while black levels show some grain, largely during a nighttime confrontation between Claire and a mysterious stranger. A small problem with the image is the appearance of edge enhancement in several scenes. Overall, this is a very nice transfer and is on par with some of the best to come out in recent months.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Spanish and Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby Digital 5.1 mix for High Crimes is largely atmospheric, supporting the tension that can be seen onscreen. Dialogue is fine and clear throughout and seems to have been mixed well. Rear speaker use is limited . The .1 LFE track is muted for the most part with only a handful of instances where even the slightest rumble is heard.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+ 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 23 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
6 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by director Carl Franklin
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: A commentary by director Carl Franklin leads off a rather small selection of extra material that can be found on the High Crimes DVD. Franklin largely focuses on his actors as well as his process for constructing the film. Franklin often seems to glow too much in the work that his actors achieve, but for the most part it is just a director taking pride in his cast, which is always nice to see.

Next is a collection of six featurettes, each focusing on a different aspect of the film. Liar Liar (How To Beat a Polygraph) looks at how it is possible to beat these devices that are often used on people who maintain their innocence. Grueling and nerve-racking though it may be, it can be done, as one expert explains. File this one under educational. A Different Kind of Justice is a look at the different worlds that exist when comparing military and civilian law. FBI Takedown in Union Square and Car Crash look at how the scenes at the beginning and end, respectively, were created. Each runs only two to three minutes in length, so these features feel rushed. Together Again and A Military Mystery are perhaps two of the more interesting inclusions, as the first chronicles the reteaming of Freeman and Judd, showing that the two carry the chemistry that is present onscreen into their personal lives as well. A Military Mystery is a nice look at the translation of novel to script with the author of the book upon which High Crimes is based, Joseph Finder. Finder is also an extra in the film and after seeing him in this featurette, it is fun to go back and watch the film again to find him.

Finally. the theatrical trailer is offered nonanamorphic widescreen.

Extras Grade: B

Final Comments

High Crimes is a technically proficient film with two great performances, but the script is of such low quality that it is difficult to give the picture even the most marginal recommendation.

Kevin Clemons 2002-08-27