“High Crimes” is far from impressive, but strangely, it is difficult to point out what makes it feel so awkward. The film is not necessarily predictable because the script is interesting enough to keep you hooked and curious about what will happen next, but it is somewhat dry and lacks energy. Any power that the film may have seems to come from the director’s sense of timing and scene transition, not from the dialogue or even the action. The fact that director Carl Franklin can pull it off is somewhat baffling – and one can’t be sure if the film survives because it has decent directing or just good manipulation of characters, which can then hopefully turn a typical thriller/drama into an engaging story. Nevertheless, the overall feel of the film is pure mediocrity.

The story is about Claire Kubick (Ashley Judd), a defense attorney who is married to former Marine Tom Kubick (James Caviezel). When Tom is tracked down by the military and put in prison because of a first-degree murder charge, Claire takes on the case in defense of her husband. She soon learns, however, that her husband’s past and Marine duties are a mystery, and she must deal with her doubt and confusion over the alleged story that Tom had killed nine innocent civilians in El Salvador. Although Claire feels doubtful, she believes he didn’t do it. With the realization that she is in over her head trying the case, in the unfamiliar territory of military court, she seeks out expert attorney Charles Grimes (Morgan Freeman). Grimes, however, is not what she expected – he’s a recovering alcoholic teetering on the brink of relapse, and Claire finds his seemingly lackadaisical outlook distracting. Nevertheless, they work well together, and they continue fighting for her husband’s freedom.

Judd and Freeman do excellent jobs when looked at individually; but, the chemistry between their characters and the development of their relationship seems forced and unnatural. On that note, any chemistry between any of the characters in the film fails. This is due to some poor acting on Caviezel’s part. He lacks energy and believability, and his constant stoic attitude is annoying,and completely ineffective. For Judd and Freeman, however, the awkwardness with their roles lies in the fact that the script paid little attention to character development and too much attention to plot. The plot feels overworked, while the characters and their motivations are ignored.

For example, there is no mention as to why Grimes even decided to help Claire with the case, and Tom is surprisingly complacent while in prison. Although further developments of the story explain a lot more about Tom’s past and why he acts the way he does, this is not explained through his words or emotion. It has to be assumed through flashback scenes and side references. For being such a central character, Caviezel is hidden in the shadows. Rather, Grimes’ alcohol habits are constantly alluded to as if this is just as big of a problem. However, simply showing Grimes as a worn-out man, burdened by age, is insufficient, and it does little to strengthen his relationship with Claire and their work on the case.

“High Crimes” is cooked up to be something intriguing, but it is really just arranged in a way that merely appears interesting. It is almost as if you are tricked into thinking that you are seeing a great story develop. Similar to a mystery novel, the film can be enjoyed because of its entertainment and not necessarily its substantive worth. All the ingredients of a great film are there, however, so it’s a shame that the filmmakers couldn’t try harder to fully develop the film as a whole. With a deeper exploration of the characters and dialogue, which are necessary to delivering the story just as much as the plot is, ‘”High Crimes” would be much more successful. The makers just seemed to lose sight of what was important.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *