High Crimes
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High Crimes is a 2002 American legal thriller film directed by Carl Franklin and starring Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman, reunited from the 1997 film Kiss the Girls. The screenplay by Yuri Zeltser and Grace Cary Bickley is based on Joseph Finder s 1998 novel of the same name.


Attorney Claire Kubik and her woodworker husband Tom find their idyllic life in Marin County, California, shattered when, during a Christmas shopping excursion in San Francisco s Union Square, he is captured by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and charged with the 1988 murders of nine unarmed civilians in a village in El Salvador. Claire learns Tom s real name is Ronald Chapman, and she is shocked to discover he was in a covert military operation, serving in the Marines, and has been on the run for the past 12 years.

Tom admits he was present at the scene of the mass murders but staunchly denies any involvement in the killings. He insists he has been scapegoated to protect the real culprit, Major James Hernandez, who has become the aide of Brigadier General Bill Marks.

First Lieutenant Terence Embry is assigned to defend Tom, but his youth and lack of experience prompt Claire to decide to assist professionally in defending her husband. When she realizes she needs help from someone familiar with the workings of a military court, she hires Charlie Grimes, an embittered former military attorney who has a grudge against the military brass, to assist her. Three of the five key witnesses, who previously testified Tom was guilty, have died under seemingly mysterious circumstances, raising Claire and Charlie s suspicions. As the trial proceeds, they uncover a massive cover-up perpetrated by one of the military s highest-ranking officials. Also creating problems are the sudden appearance of a resident of the village where the mass murder took place, who insists Tom was responsible; Embry s romantic involvement with Claire s irresponsible sister Jackie; Embry s drinking in a bar with the prosecutor, which leads Claire to assume that he leaked details about secrets she has uncovered to the prosecution; and Charlie s falling off the wagon after more than a year of sobriety.

The Salvadorian witness identifies an injured Hernandez as the culprit responsible for a bombing incident prior to the massacre. Claire recovers classified medical files from the FBI as evidence of the cover-up. Claire blackmails Marks by threatening to reveal what she knows about the cover-up and asks him to make the case go away; the next day, the U.S. Defense Department has the case thrown out of court due to security reasons .

Just as Claire is about to celebrate her victory in court, Charlie discovers the truth: Tom had murdered one of the witnesses in front of his family. The widow who witnessed the act described Tom s having tossed his gun from one hand to the other (a habit Tom displayed with keys and other objects throughout the film) and his shooting his gun first using one hand, then the other (revealing his ambidexterity). The match between these descriptions also indicated that Tom committed the massacre and also murdered two of the other key witnesses years prior to his arrest. After Tom overhears Claire talking to Charlie on the phone, a short scuffle between Claire and Tom ensues, during which Claire fears for her life. The Salvadorian witness shoots Tom through the window, and the film ends with Charlie and Claire partnering a new law firm.


  • Ashley Judd as Claire Kubik
  • Morgan Freeman as Charlie Grimes
  • Jim Caviezel as Tom Kubik/Ron Chapman
  • Adam Scott as First Lieutenant Terence Embry
  • Amanda Peet as Jackie Grimaldi
  • Bruce Davison as Brigadier General Bill Marks
  • Juan Carlos Hernández as Major James Hernandez
  • Michael Gaston as Major Lucas Waldron
  • Tom Bower as Special Agent Mullins
  • Jude Ciccolella as Colonel Farrell
  • Emilio Rivera as Salvadoran Man
  • Michael Shannon as Troy Abbott
  • Dendrie Taylor as Lola
  • Paula Jai Parker as Gracie
  • Dawn Hudson as Lieutenant Colonel LaPierre
  • Julie Remala as Lisa Stenstrom

Critical reception

Rotten Tomatoes reported a rotten 31% rating, based on 133 reviews, while Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 48 out of 100, based on 33 reviews.

A.O. Scott of The New York Times thought Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman make a muddled genre exercise seem a lot better than it is. Ms. Judd, always brisk and appealing, is capable of fine acting when the mood strikes Mr. Freeman shows himself, once again, incapable of giving a bad performance. He added Carl Franklin s direction is far from terrible, but it feels singularly uninspired, a flurry of fast, expository scenes and suspense-movie setups. He felt the plot twist renders everything that came before completely nonsensical and concluded, If you figure it out, please let me know. On second thought, don t, but please drop a line to the folks at 20th Century Fox, since I m sure they re just as baffled as the rest of us.

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times rated the film three out of four stars and commented, I do like the way director Carl Franklin and writers Yuri Zeltser and Cary Bickley . . . play both ends against the middle, so that the audience has abundant evidence to believe two completely conflicting theories of what actually happened . . . High Crimes works to keep us involved and make us care . . . The unfolding of various versions of the long-ago massacre is handled by Franklin in flashbacks that show how one camera angle can refute what another angle seems to prove. And if we feel, toward the end, a little whiplashed by the plot manipulations, well, that s what the movie promises and that s what the movie delivers.

Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle said the film has some faults, but it manages to keep its audience either angry or jumpy from start to finish . . . The dramatic focus of High Crimes gets a bit fuzzy in the last half hour – it starts to feel as if some scenes get replayed. Still, the scenes are never dull, and the movie recovers for the big finish. Only one thing is lacking throughout, not a big thing, but big enough to mention. We keep hearing about what great lawyers Claire and Grimes are, but there s no great courtroom scene. In that, High Crimes is too much like real life. It gives us court with no courtroom fireworks.

Michael O Sullivan of The Washington Post said the film satisfies a hunger for the basics: a decent mystery to chew on, a bit of juicy suspense, maybe a plot twist as garnish. The fare is all on the standard menu, but it goes down well just the same. Chalk that up to a cast the director can trust enough to step out of the way and let do their jobs . . . And yes, there s a twist ending, but don t kid yourself that you won t see it coming. Surprising? Maybe not. Satisfying? Not half as much as watching Freeman and Judd, two compelling performers who seem to enjoy each other s company almost as much as we do.

Robert Koehler of Variety called the film utterly conventional and Ashley Judd s performance so resolutely humorless and businesslike that Freeman s gruffly affectionate warmth becomes doubly valuable, though not nearly enough to lend this generic project any special character. Most disillusioning is how director Carl Franklin, once known for tense storytelling and unpredictable characters, goes about his task here with a visible lack of inspiration . . . The screenwriting team of Yuri Zeltser and Cary Bickley has tweaked Joseph Finder s novel considerably . . . Character alterations, refinements, re-locations and plot substitutions produce a rabbit s warren full of holes in an almost laughably complex plot. By the time the third act exhaustedly appears, it s hardly a wonder that some major characters have no idea where other major characters are, or what they re doing.

Awards and nominations

Morgan Freeman was nominated for the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Motion Picture but lost to Denzel Washington in John Q, the actor s fourth consecutive win in this category.

Home media

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20th Century Fox Home Entertainment released the Region 1 DVD on August 27, 2002. The film is in anamorphic widescreen format with audio tracks in English, Spanish, and French and subtitles in English and Spanish. Bonus features include commentary by director Carl Franklin and six featurettes about the making of the film.

High Crimes is also available on Blu-ray Disc.

Year 2002
ReleaseDate 2002-04-05
RuntimeMins 115
RuntimeStr 1h 55min
Plot A successful lawyer’s husband is arrested for murdering 9 villagers in El Salvador in 1988 as US soldier under a different name. She defends him in military court and investigates. Framed?
Awards Awards, 2 nominations
Directors Carl Franklin
Writers Joseph Finder, Yuri Zeltser, Grace Cary Bickley
Stars Jim Caviezel, Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd
Produced by Jesse Beaton,Naomi Despres,Lisa Henson,Dennis E. Jones,Arnon Milchan,Kevin Reidy,Eric Sherman,Janet Yang
Music by Graeme Revell
Cinematography by Theo van de Sande
Film Editing by Carole Kravetz Aykanian
Casting By Mali Finn
Production Design by Paul Peters
Art Direction by Gary Kosko
Set Decoration by Kathryn Peters
Costume Design by Sharen Davis
Makeup Department Luisa Abel,Deena Adair,Felicity Bowring,Catherine Childers,Cydney Cornell,Lisa M. Cubero,Ginger Damon,Gretchen Davis,Monica Di Venti,Shawn Finch,Peggy Forcellini,Marco A. Garcia,Michael Hancock,Carlos Horcasitas,Sheri Knight,Deborah Mills-Whitlock,Kris Ravetto,Raúl Sarmiento,Peter Serraino,Alejandro Sosa,Nanci Cascio
Production Management Dan Genetti,Thomas A. Imperato,Dennis E. Jones,Ellen Lent,Roger Joseph Pugliese,Kevin Reidy,Anna Roth,Carlos Taibo,Hugo Villa,Alan Collis
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director Miguel Lima,Rusty Mahmood,Michael T. McNerney,Chitra F. Mojtabai,Michele Panelli-Venetis,Patrick Smith,Julian ‘Chico’ Valdez,Ozcar Ramírez González
Art Department Sopher Allez,Emilio R. Aramendia,Al Arthur,Dennis Becker,Michael R. Blaich,Will Blount,Richard Boris,Tracy Boyko,Francine Byrne,Frank Calvert,David Carberry,Diane Carlucci,Cliff Carothers,Monica Castro,Kevin Chambers,Andrea Coish,Satcha Congdon,Michael Shawn Courtney,Gregory Diggins,Tim Donelan,Larry Eisler,Randall C. Engle,Tom Ferraiulo,Esteban Garcia,Stephen J. Gardner,George Garrett,David Gomez Frias,Alfredo Gonzalez,Armando Gonzalez,Edgar Granados,Fred Haft,Gary Heider,Melo Hinojosa,Sarah Holyoak,Sean House,Christine Hughen,Don Kaeding,Mark Kessler,Matthew Klipper,Geoffrey Lake,Greg Lake,Michael Leblovic,Enrique Lechuga,John Lister,Josh Lusby,Héctor López,Dave Margolin,René Marquéz,Ron Marshall,John P. Maynier,Nicholas Meeks,Ty Mullen,David J. Negron Jr.,Teresa Nielsen,Richard Nowling,Laura M. O’Brien,Katsuhiko Okada,Steve Pfauter,Jim Poynter,Raymond Prado,Francisco Ramirez Rojo,Hugo A. Reyes,Tom Richardson,Oscar Rico,Stephan C. Sadler,Victor Salazar,Chris Samp,Richard Sarabia,Jeff Shewbert,Jeff Snyder,Michael Spitaletto,Michael Symmes,Robert Terbeek,Leslie Tokunaga,Theresa Wachter,Thomas R. Wagner,Tim Wessling,Dwight Williams,Helen Wilson,Michael Wohlers,Dean Wolcott,Douglas Womack,Quinn Yarbrough,Stephen McNally,Moises Pineda
Sound Department Javier Bennassar,Stu Bernstein,Claudia Carle,Gail Clark Burch,Harry Cohen,Chris Diamond,Dean Drabin,Richard Dwan Jr.,Gary Gegan,Nerses Gezalyan,Mark Gordon,Alan Goulding,Frederick Howard,Matthew Iadarola,Lou Kleinman,Justin Kohler,David Kudell,Jeff Kushner,Mark Lanza,Michael Meier,James Moriana,Ryan Murphy,Steve Nelson,Santiago Núñez,Thomas O’Neil Younkman,Preston Oliver,Gary Raymond,Jerry Ross,Solange S. Schwalbe,Douglas Shamburger,David Stanke,Peter Staubli,Jeffrey Wilhoit,Wade Wilson,Samet Yavuz,Greg Zimmerman,John Soukup
Special Effects by Chris Bailey,Thomas Baumann,John C. Carlucci,Lou Carlucci,Antonio Cornejo,Jesus G. Duran,Adrián Durán,Fermín Durán,Juan Durán,Ethel Edwards,Richard L. Hill,Doug Hubbard,Matt Kutcher,Jeffrey Machit,James Ochoa,Ric San Nicholas,Ken Tarallo
Visual Effects by David Crawford,Gregory Creaser,Fortunato Frattasio,Shaina Holmes,Pierre La Querre,Derek Ledbetter,Ralph Maiers,Janet Quen,Bryan Park
Stunts Gregory J. Barnett,Bob Brown,Jophery C. Brown,Troy Brown,Balo Bucio,Julian Bucio,Julio Cesar Bucio,Terri Cadiente,Rocky Capella,Steven Chambers,Steve M. Davison,Dane Farwell,Eddie J. Fernandez,Andy Gill,Susanne Hefner,Norman Howell,Lisa Hoyle,Sammy Maloof,Dustin Meier,Miriam Meza,Bennie Moore,Mike Mukatis,Juan Carlos Olalde,Alan Oliney,Sammy Ortiz,Bernabe Palma,Jeff Podgurski,Gary Price,Mario Roberts,Troy Robinson,Craig Shugart,Brian Simpson,Ron Stein,Melissa R. Stubbs,Stuart F. Wilson,Danny Wynands,Omar Ayala,Terri Cadiente,Eddie J. Fernandez,Melissa R. Stubbs,Lee Whittaker
Camera and Electrical Department Mike Amorelli,Ricardo Arvizu,Adam Baral,David Barnett,Sanford Barr,Ben Batzdorff,Garrett Benson,Jerry Bertolami,Víctor Camacho,George Canaday,A. Anthony Cappello,Joaquin Cervera,Gary Cyr,Ralph Del Castillo,Seong Dilg,Mitch Dubin,Stefan Duschaine,Patrick Figueroa,Michael S. Finley,Steve Galloway,Gary Gill,Robert Gray,Quinn Grove,Heriberto Gutiérrez,Rick Harris,Greg HecQ,Luke Hock,D.O. Inman,John Lacy,Christopher J. Lama,Charles Larson,Gregory Lundsgaard,Starrs McBurney,Gary McClendon,Héctor Medina,Rafael ‘Pache’ Mejía,Dan Michalske,Daisuke Dice Miyake,Laurence Monier,Bob Myers,Eduardo Oviedo,James Owens,John Owens,Gary Palmer,Phil Pastuhov,Bobby Powell,Scott J. Prophet,Louis Ramos,Robbie Redner,Juan Carlos Rodríguez,Guillermo Rosas,Jan Ruona,P. Scott Sakamoto,Jose Luis Sanchez,John Scalzo,Gihan ‘Sandy’ Seneviratne,Salvador ‘Apache’ Serrano,Barnaby Shapiro,Alan Shultz,Mark R. Shultz,Gregory W. Smith,Dean Striepeke,Jimmy Stuart,Steve Suveg,Carlos Sánchez,Bruce W. Talamon,Mauricio Vega,John Wright,Robert Barcelona,Glenn Corbett
Casting Department Jenifer Favreau,Barbara Harris,Terence Harris,Lindsey Hayes Kroeger,Nancy Hayes,David Rapaport,Darren Benjamin Shepherd,Sharat Raju
Costume and Wardrobe Department Yvonne Bastidos,Michael Becker,Cheryl Cravedi,Edgar Neri Dominguez,Jessica Fasman,Marylou Lim,Paul Lopez,Daniela Moore,Carlos ‘Pollo’ Munguia,Jaime Ortiz,Cosme Damian Saavedra,Riki Lin Sabusawa,Nancy Servin
Editorial Department Marcus Franklin,Moonstar Greene,Tamaron Greene,Blake Maniquis,Mato,Vincent Mourou,Theresa Repola Mohammed
Location Management Steve Bannatyne,Luciana Cavargas,Mary Clutts,Elizabeth Dixon,Randy Flosi,Saisie M. Jang,Daniel B. Juarez,Greg Kappy,Kimie Kimura-Heaney,James R. Maceo,Angeles Morales,Scott Trimble,Pablo Ramos Viniegra,Marianne Bell,Edward da Roza Jr.,Christian Krieger,Heather McCann,Harry Stein
Music Department High Crimes,Mark Curry,Debbi Datz-Pyle,John Kurlander,Miriam Mayer,Blake Neely,Gregg Nestor,Maria Newman,Roy Prendergast,Ashley Revell,John Rodd,Tim Simonec,Wilhelm Stephan,Thomas Cavanaugh,Ellen Ginsburg
Script and Continuity Department Sandra Cole,Annie Welles
Transportation Department Mark L. Basler,Bob Crisafulli,Jerry Drake,Cody Frost,J. Armin Garza II,Javier Gunther,Donald Kasich,Dean E. Mason,Dennis Milliken,Charles Montgomery,Dan Riportella,Mario ‘Pikachu’ Rojas,John Sagray,Marshall Taylor,Robert Gaskill
Additional Crew Jesús Almontes,Enriqueta ‘Queta’ Amador,Edna Arriola,Ana Ballesteros,Jose Manuel Ballesteros,Peggy Baslow,Mark Bosia,Michelle Brattson,Ericka Bryce,Amy Carroll,Carlos Castellanos,Luciana Cavargas,Lorena Chandler,Kevin Collis,Bruce Comtois,Katherine Covell,Joshua Cowing,Renee D. Czarapata,Jordan deBree,Danny Deraney,Christopher Desmond,Luke John Dickson,Sue Doucette,Jack Driscoll,Bernard L. Eatmon,James Edelhauser,Edward L. Erbach,Sam S Fernandes,Nathan Fleming,Pedro Garcia,Winston Gieseke,Luis ‘Batman’ Granados,Jorge Guerrero,Marcy Guiragossian,Josefina Hernandez,Robert Irving,Michael E. Jacobson,Jacquelyn Janis,Morgan Johnson,Tom Judt,Beverly Jusi,Sean S. Kanase,Kevin Kelly,John Kirby,Robert A. Levine,Catherine Leyba,Lindsey Liberatore,Brandon Linville,Victor Lomupo,Dirk Q. Long,Tim Lovelace,G. Pekas Lozano,Abbie Ludwig,Jim Maguire,Felipe Marino,Michelle McGrath,Joe McNeilly,Nick Mestrundrea,A.J. Mink Jr.,Doug Moreno,William Ostroff,Terry Lee Painovich,Carrie Panzer,Mike Piccirillo,Quentin Pierre,Israel Pineda,Michael L. Powell,Lia Prewitt-Martin,Alan D. Purwin,Sofía Pérez,Norma Ramos,Paul ‘Sled’ Reynolds,Titus Reynolds,Marisa Rico,Scott Salter,Nina Saxon,Suha Yaziji Scurich,Amanda Segel,Leslie Silvey,Patrick Smith,Linda Stelling,Rick S. Sulier,Cindy Taylor,Rahdi Taylor,Ernesto Trejo,Tammy Troglin,Scott Urban,Kenny Vasquez,Onni Vosdoganes,Jude S. Walko,Troy Waters,Ami Zins,Bridget Allen,Andy Arness,Barry Barclay,Norma Odion Batongbacal,Denise Blasor,Gabe de Kelaita,Steven Docherty,Nicole Doherty,Karen Jine,Steve ‘Phoenix’ Kristan,Melanie Leavitt,Juliana Montgomery,Peter V.O. Moore,Charles Sachsel,Brian Sampson,Chandra Sivakumar,Jaek Sofaer,TreJulie Stamos
Genres Crime, Drama, Mystery
Companies Twentieth Century Fox, New Regency Productions, New Regency Productions
Countries USA
Languages English, Spanish
ContentRating PG-13
ImDbRating 6.3
ImDbRatingVotes 43522
MetacriticRating 48
Keywords death by gunshot,shot in the back,murder confession,ambidexterity,classified file