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High Crimes
DVD disk
10.05.2004 By: Scott Weinberg
High Crimes order
Director:
Carl Franklin

Actors:
Ashley Judd
Morgan Freeman
Jim Caviezel

Rating:
Movie:
Extras:
Overall:

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WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
Hot young wife/hotshot attorney gal must come to her husband’s aid when he’s accused of some unsavory military crimes, stopping along the way to enlist the help of a rascally old pro. Tedium follows.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
Sure it’s a good movie…if you’ve never seen one mystery flick in your entire life! Students get expelled from high schools and colleges all the time for plagiarizing other people’s work, yet that kind of behavior in Hollywood generally earns you a swanky new car and a three-picture-deal. It’s gotten to the point where the very words ‘courtroom drama’ inspire fear and boredom in the hearts of moviegoers everywhere. Throw the formerly-cute, currently-annoying Ashley Judd into the mix, and you’re looking at a lazy movie that would just barely qualify as a Lifetime Channel Saturday Night Estrogen injection (I was hoping that a movie entitled High Crimes would prove to be the long-awaited co-production between Martin Scorsese and Cheech & Chong!) Now, I certainly have NO problem with ‘chick flicks’ (since chick flicks generally have women in them, and women are pretty) but what I have a problem with is a movie that offers not one single original thought, concept, or character; a movie that seemingly has a virtual checklist of stereotypes, plot contrivances, and genre cliches, and then spends 100 minutes adhering to that list as if it were made of quick-drying cement.

Director Carl Franklin (who earned a lot of acclaim early in his career for movies like Devil in a Blue Dress) points his camera at whatever hoary old chestnut the screenplay calls for, occasionally offering a pretty slick segue before lining up the next telegraphed plot twist (When a movie’s best asset is its collection of ‘fluid exposition shots’, you know you’re in trouble.) In an effort to duplicate the box-office popularity of KISS THE GIRLS, Judd and Freeman are once again paired up. Yee-awn. Am I the only one who thinks that Freeman (a phenomenally COOL actor) is wasting his time on this sort of cookie-cutter crap? Surely he could find a better way to utilize his extensive talents! Standing around, smiling warmly, and sharing pedantic banter with the squeaky Judd is not a worthwhile expenditure of his time, and the familiarity of the production seems to weigh on his shoulders as he sleepwalks through the proceedings. Unless you’re an avid addict of all movies courtroom-related, you can safely skip over High Crimes during your next DVD run. The movie offers absolutely nothing you haven’t seen before, and it does so in a stunningly rote and unimaginative way. I know plenty of soccer Moms who may want my head now, seeing as how they’re the intended demographic for warmed-up leftovers like HIGH CRIMES, but this one’s a turkey no matter who you are. I’m all for modern-day-female-empowerment stories, but there’s really no need for them to be so banal, predictable, and just plain boring.
THE EXTRAS
A surprisingly stocked DVD for such a forgettable movie: First up is a full-length audio commentary with director Carl Franklin. While it’s often a rather dry track, Franklin does offer a lot of interesting tidbits along the way. I’d wager a bet that this audio track is more compelling than the actual movie, and I’m SURE that’s the case in relation to the six short featurettes. Running from 2 to 8 minutes in length each, we’re offered a few interesting glimpses at some behind-the-scenes and movie-related material. The best of the lot is How to Beat a Polygraph, in which FBI consultant Sue Doucette explains how ‘lie detectors’ really work and some tricks you can employ if you’re trying to beat the system. Pretty neat. Another interesting one is A Military Mystery, in which screenwriter/novelist Joseph Finder discusses the various differences between writing a book and adapting a screenplay. The guy is actually enthusiastic about his debut screenplay, and his attitude makes for a pretty nice chat. Worth a look.

Those looking for a cursory glance at how the U.S. Court Martial system works may enjoy the info offered by attorney Alice Cate in A Different Kind of Justice, while Together Again is a seven-minute stroke-fest in which Freeman and Judd talk about how much they love one another. Director Franklin steps in to smear some praise-paint on the walls, too. Adorable. The last two featurettes are of the on-set variety: FBI Takedown in Union Square and The Car Crash detail some of the movie’s more “elaborate” action scenes. Given that neither of these scenes are all that impressive, the behind-the-scenes footage seems a bit less exciting, but it’s always nice to have some candid looks at filmmakers as they’re working. Oh yeah, the theatrical trailer is also included.
FINAL DIAGNOSIS
If you’re the kind of person who enjoys eating the exact same TV dinner twice a week, you’ll probably enjoy this painfully predictable crime flick a bit more than I did. The mini-featurettes are more worthy of a rental than is the main feature.
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