High Crimes (2002)
11th March 2003
Life couldn't be any better for happily married attorney in law Claire Kubik and her husband, Tom. After yet another successful defence case her career is rapidly heading skywards and the office is full of talk of her becoming a partner in the law firm. Things are just as good at home with the pair enthusiastically trying for a child. However, things soon come crashing off the rails during a Christmas shopping trip when the FBI ambush the pair and take Tom into military custody.
Thinking it is all just one big mistake Clair heads over to the military base to confront the base commander and read the charge sheet. Upon her arrival she is horrified to learn that Tom has been charged with the cold blooded murder of a number of Latino civilians in a Marine mission to El Salvador several years earlier. Determined to clear her husband of all charges she decides to become his attorney in what will be a military trail - a trail with no civilian jury or appeal of which the sentence could be the death penalty
Unfamiliar with the workings of a military court, and the fact that the military has appointed Tom an attorney who is a total rookie, she approaches Charlie Grimes for assistance. Charlie is a recovering alcoholic, legal wildcard and unconventional ex-army attorney to boot. Many an eyebrow has been raised whenever this scruffy man wearing a leather jacket and poor excuse for a tie turned up in court. However, Charlie is as good at his job and as the pair start to dig for evidence they discover that key witnesses have died in mysterious circumstances. After touching such a raw nerve the military soon become edgy and start using underhand tactics. Is this a cover up, and how far up the chain does it go?
The picture is bright and colourful with a good level of detail. With the majority of the film taking place at night or in dimly lit locations there could be problems with the picture reproduction. Fortunately it all holds up well with an above average bit-rate throughout the film with impressive levels of blacks along with no signs of any artifacting or outlining. Naturally for such a new film the print is clean and there are no signs of picture imperfections or dust scratches. It could have all been so much different. During the opening shaky and bright scenes I was wondering just what the heck was going on. Fortunately, breathing a sigh of relief, this was deliberate as it turned out to be camcorder footage
Whilst the picture reproduction is good the sound is hardly anything to get excited about. Mind you, with this genre of film there isn't really any need for heavily amounts of surround effects or LFE's, although as the tension in the film mounts the surround channels could have been utilised in a more effective manner. Putting this criticism aside the dialogue is impressively clear and precise in the centre channel where it remains firmly locked at a consistent level throughout. You can then set the volume at a reasonable level without having to keep diving for the remote whenever the action is cranked up
The menu system is animated and scored with a number of cut scenes playing in the background of the main menu. Unfortunately the sub menus are a static and silent affair. For what is a relatively unknown title, well in the UK at least as I hadn't even heard of this title until a review copy was presented to me, the menu system is reasonably effective and certainly better than some of the more high profile and big budget films available of DVD. At least Twentieth Century Fox made the effort.
Whilst the film may not be everyone's cup of tea, the extras accompanying the film certainly go some way to make the package more interesting. There's also the suspicion that a bit of effort has been made to bump up what was a box office flop. Never the less the extras are interesting enough with six featurettes including a useful split screen crash scene deconstruction and one on how to beat a polygraph test - pay attention as you never know when it may come in handy!
There's also a reasonable director's commentary with the occasional interesting insight into the direction and editing of the film. It's just a pity that neither Ashley Judd nor Morgan Freeman could pick up the microphone to assist. Perhaps because it was such a poor show in the cinema they decided it was best forgotten, either that or the DVD budget couldn't be stretched to accommodate their fees!
Overall, this film is a little disappointing and if anything a tad predictable. However, if you like you courtroom dramas with a twist (or ten!) then you'll probably like this film. The acting from both Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman is good whilst the appearance of either of these actors is enough for some people to warrant a purchase. And if you don't fancy buying a copy? Well, it's certainly worth while considering it for rental.
- Director's commentary
- A military Mystery - Interview with author Joseph Finder
- FBI Takedown in Union Square - Making of featurette
- A Different Kind of Justice - Military Justice featurette
- Liar Liar: How to Beat a Polygraph - interview with FBI specialist
- Together Again - Interview with Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman
- Car Crash : Making of featurette