Raised for great things by the police commissioner himself ("S.W.A.T.'s" Samuel L. Jackson) after the death of her parents, Judd's Jessica Shepard seems to be a major rising star in the SF department--until her very first case after promotion to homicide detective raises questions about the darker aspects of her private life. It turns out that the link between the male victims in a rash of serial-type killings is that each was picked up by Jessica for a session of rough, near-anonymous sex. Before long, Jessica--who, among her other problems, is a blackout drunk--starts to wonder if some of her past issues might not have been resolved quite so completely as she'd believed.
Respected director Philip Kaufman ("The Right Stuff"), who made an underwhelming previous venture into cop thriller territory with 1993's "Rising Sun," wisely keeps a tight focus on Judd's strong performance, a firm enough foundation to keep the film from completely falling apart when its disappointingly melodramatic, formulaic intentions become clear in the second half. Judd can come off as tough enough to convincingly portray a gal whose preferred way of dealing with guy problems is to bust said guy in the nose, yet she's equally confident in several challenging emotional moments. Capably backing up the star, albeit in much less juicy roles, are Jackson, Andy Garcia ("Ocean's Eleven") as her new police partner, and the always-sympathetic David Strathairn ("L.A. Confidential") as a kindly therapist. Starring Ashley Judd, Samuel L. Jackson, Andy Garcia, David Strathairn, Russell Wong and Mark Pellegrino. Directed by Philip Kaufman. Written by Sarah Thorp. Produced by Arnold Kopelson, Anne Kopelson, Barry Baeres and Linne Radmin. A Paramount release. Thriller. Rated R for violence, language and sexuality. Running time: 96 min