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High Crimes

If 2002's High Crimes does anything right, it's getting Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman back on screen together again. Partnered before in 1997's Kiss the Girls, there was something about the teaming of the girlish-but-determined Southerner Judd and the older, authoritarian Freeman that clicked. The pairing is also of some interest since it gives Freeman a chance to play against type. Starring as Charlie Grimes, an alcoholic army lawyer who's trying to stay on the wagon, Freeman gets to have his ear pierced, wear leather and ride a chopper — a nice change from the more presidential roles he's been playing of late (perhaps because a generation grew up with him as Easy Reader on "The Electric Company," they're used to treating him as an authority). Otherwise High Crimes is the sort of murder mystery best left for rides on public transportation. Judd stars as Claire Kubik, the most fashionable (but down-to-earth) and high-powered lawyer in San Francisco. Her husband Tom (Jim Caviezel) loves her and they're about to have a child when one day he's taken into custody by the military. From there the film becomes a courtroom drama — Tom has been accused of murdering nine people, while he insists he's a patsy for Major Hernandez (Juan Carlos Hernandez). But while investigating with Charlie Grimes (Freeman), Claire receives all kinds of threats from the Marines who wish to protect their own; a conspiracy also seems likely, as Hernandez serves under General Marks (Bruce Davidson), now an advisor to the president. Judd may look fabulous throughout High Crimes, and the banter between her and Freeman is great fun, but the mystery is fairly routine for a Hollywood movie and the final twist will be evident to anyone who calculates how much screen-time is left between the end of the trial and the end of the movie. And though director Carl Franklin (One False Move) has done well with genre work before, everything here feels rote. But what's probably most shocking is that for — or at least what should be — a woman's picture (Judd is fighting for her husband), most of the film is about watching how dumb and powerless Judd's character really is, as often even when she does right, it's for the wrong reasons. Fox's DVD release of High Crimes presents the film in anamorphic widescreen (2.35:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. The disc comes with a commentary by director Franklin — who as an actor is a wonderful commentator. Also here are six featurettes: "A Military Mystery," which is all about the film; "FBI Takedown in Union Square," which is production footage of a location shoot; "A Different Kind of Justice," which is a featurette on military law; "Liar Liar: How to Beat a Polygraph Test," which is just that; "The Car Crash," featuring more production footage of the sequence being put together; and "Together Again," which talks about Freeman and Judd's chemistry. Theatrical trailer, keep-case.

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