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IN SHORT: The Perils of Pauline 2002, or, let's beat Ashley Judd into a bloody pulp. [Rated PG-13 for violence, sexual content and language. 120 minutes]
We've written about the difficulties of adapting a book to the big screen before. Yes, we've had that job so we know a little of what we speak. Most of the time we can tell a bad adaptation because of the sense that huge amounts of material has been left out and what little story is left has been stitched together poorly. As a viewer, the usual gut reaction is "Huh?" The opposite is also true, that of leaving every little thing that was in the book in the screenplay. The usual result is a garbled mess, with scenes running together so quickly that the net result is a lot of ridiculous nonsense.
Such is the case with High Crimes, in which high powered legal eagle Claire Kubik (Ashley Judd) is determined to make babies with perfect hubbie Tom (Jim Caviezel). Claire is, it is hinted, about to make partner at the prestigious SanFran law firm of Franklin, Dade, Heller and Associates for getting a notorious rapist a brand spankin' new trial (with all the publicity attendant to).
Press is one thing. Restarting a rape trial is enough to truly piss off certain elements of the community because, next thing you know, Claire and Tom are in the middle of an attack of smoke grenades, tear gas bombs and eye blinding flares. Nope, it ain't liberals. It's a battalion by black suited FBI storm troopers who throw our happy loving couple to the ground and make Tom disappear . . . just as he did twelve years before, when he was known as Ronald Chapman, who slaughtered nine El Salvadorians in cold blood as part of a covert operation to assassinate a terrorist.
Tom/Ron maintains that another grunt, named Hernandez (Juan Carlos Hernandez) did the deed under orders from their Colonel (Bruce Davison) Gee. A husband who lies. Who woulda thunk it? It takes a while to figure this out because, apparently, the charges are to be tried in a military court and the military doesn't follow Constitutional guidelines about revealing charges -- desertion, refusing to follow orders and nine counts of first degree murder (you're welcome) -- or supplying anything but a novice attorney (Adam Scott) for the defense. The prosecution and supervising officer are veterans and ace knot tie-ers -- it's a death penalty trial. Yippee!
It's also an obvious railroad job and, loving wife and ace lawyer that she is, Claire steps up for the Defense. She ain't stupid -- first she tracks down an ace military man; a retired, chopper riding, alcoholic named C.W. Grimes (Morgan Freeman), ex JAG Corps. Then, she gets beat up, blown up, finds out that all the original witnesses (except Hernandez and the now Brigadier General Marks) are dead, gets smashed in a car, figures out that the game is rigged when the Court tosses what evidence she has . . .
and we're not even halfway through this thing. Nor have we mentioned Claire's "psychic" sister Jackie (Amanda Peet) who is fond of skimpy underwear and that novice attorney.
Every five minutes there's a new twist to the story. There's a South American guy who shows up seeking revenge. There's another one, just as threatening, who may be a good guy or a bad guy. There's a major military cover-up, dirty tricks and,even when you get the ending you wanted all the way through, there's still half an hour and a couple of more twists to wade through.
Every detail laid out in the first fifteen minutes, no matter how trivial, comes back full force by the end of the movie. Some of it is designed to develop the characters but all of it is dispensed with so quickly you may find yourself wishing Tom/Ron pleads guilty just to get the thing over with.
Judd and Freeman, who have a natural chemistry, can't do a thing to keep High Crimes compelling and interesting. And all Jim Caviezel gets out of the deal is a Marine haircut. yech.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to High Crimes, he would have paid . . .
A bunch o' malarkey. Or hooey. Or, you choose the euphemism.
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