High Crimes” is merely mediocre, an all-but-thrilless thriller of the “loved not wisely but too well” betrayed-woman genre.
Ashley Judd plays spirited and telegenic defense lawyer Claire Kubik, who thinks she has things pretty well figured out. She knows just when and how much time she needs for a sexual encounter with her handsome and devoted husband (Jim Caviezel) so that she can get pregnant. She feels confident that she is doing the right thing in freeing man accused of rape by claiming that his rights were violated by a technicality. As she explains to the television cameras, “When the rights of any defendant are violated, we are all at risk until justice has been redressed.” And then, just in case we missed the message, we get to hear it again when she watches herself on the news.
But when a bungled robbery attempt leads to a fingerprint check of their house, she discovers that there are some things she didn’t know. For example, she did not know that her husband’s name is really Ron Chapman, that he was once a Marine, and that he is wanted by federal authorities for his part in a massacre in El Salvador.
He is arrested by military authorities, and Claire is almost as disoriented by her unfamiliarity with the military justice system as she is by the unfamiliarity of the husband she thought she knew. But she swings into action. The lawyer assigned to Chapman is willing, but inexperienced. Claire hires a “wild card” lawyer who has “beat the Marines before and is hungry to do it again.” Charles Grimes (Morgan Freeman) may be a recovering alcoholic with a run-down practice, but she hires him. Then there are some predictable twists and turns and betrayals and threats, and then it ends. Badly.
Freeman and Judd have a lot of chemistry, as we saw in the much better “Kiss the Girls.” But the script is at or below the level of the average Lifetime made-for-tv movie. Here’s hoping they find a better one for their next movie together.
Parents should know that the movie has some violent moments, including flashbacks to a massacre by US armed forces and a bombing that kills civilians. Characters are in jeopardy, and some are wounded, one has a miscarriage, and one is killed. A character is an alcoholic and there are scenes in a bar. There are sexual references and situations, including prostitutes, and some very strong language. The issue of betrayal may also be upsetting for some audience members.
Characters in this movie deal with many conflicts about trust. Families who see this movie should talk about how we learn whom to trust and how we feel when our trust is betrayed. Characters also have to deal with ends-justify-the-means conflicts. How do you feel about the way they resolve them? Some family members may want to talk about the choice Charles makes when he is asked to take a drink.
Families who enjoy this movie may also enjoy the much more graphically violent “Kiss the Girls” and a movie about a Justice Department lawyer on the trail of a female serial killer, “Black Widow.