Double Jeopardy

Crime, Law and JusticeJails and PrisonsDeathCrimeLeonard GoldbergAshley JuddBruce Greenwood

Friday September 24, 1999

     By now the "wrong man" crime story is so established in our folklore that it's practically a ritual. And while "Double Jeopardy" applies a couple of different spins on the formula (notably that there's a "wronged woman" involved here), many of the same conventions are intact.
     Wouldn't you just know, for instance, that the minute poor Libby Parsons (Ashley Judd) picks up a blood-stained knife on the deck of a yacht that belonged to her now missing-and-presumed-dead husband (Bruce Greenwood), a passing Coast Guard cutter happens to shine a searchlight on her distraught, bedraggled form?
     It won't take you long to figure out that Libby is hot-buttered toast, even with the sparsest of circumstantial evidence. Arrest. Trial. Conviction. Prison. And the requisite lingering agony over her estranged child, now adopted by a family friend (Annabeth Gish). Then one day, while trying to phone her son from prison, she hears the kid call out, "Daddy." And the phone goes dead.
     Now she knows her husband is alive. She also knows, thanks to one of her prison pals, that she can legally kill the guy again and not have to face trial because of "double jeopardy" that allegedly protects her from getting convicted for the same crime twice. (In the real world that would offer no protection at all, according to a prominent legal scholar quoted in Entertainment Weekly, but this is, after all, the movies.)
     Inspired, Libby trains like a kick-boxer for her release, which arrives in a swiftly moving six years, after which she comes out still looking like a million dollars.
     Zipping right along, she checks into a halfway house run by a no-nonsense parole officer (Tommy Lee Jones), who warns her to stick close to home. But Libby wanders off to track down her ex-friend, husband and child. Thus begins a chase that moves from the waters of Washington state to Colorado to New Orleans for--you guessed it--the Climactic Confrontation. And you thought last year's Leslie Nielsen parody, "Wrongfully Accused," would stop anyone from ever again taking this subgenre seriously?
     Still, for all its familiar conventions and hoary improbabilities, "Double Jeopardy" is a relatively efficient model of its kind. Director Bruce Beresford ("Tender Mercies" and "Driving Miss Daisy") moves things along at a brisk clip, never milking a scene for gratuitous thrills as is routinely done in big-budget chase movies.
     Jones once again is compelled to chase a fugitive with his trademark hip bombast. He looks very, very tired of running. Judd, meanwhile, is cast in a higher-profile version of her role in "Kiss the Girls" (1997): the victim who fights back. She rides this old pony like a champ, giving enough energy and magnetism to the project to make you think that, as with "Kiss the Girls," she could have another hit on her hands. If so, it'd be nice if the next time she gets a crime story to do, she gets to be the detective for a change.


Double Jeopardy, 1999. R, for language, a scene of sexuality and some violence. Paramount Pictures presents a Leonard Goldberg Production. Director Bruce Beresford. Producer Leonard Goldberg. Screenplay by David Weisberg & Douglas S. Cook. Cinematographer Peter James. Editor Mark Warner. Music Normand Corbeil. Costumes Ruby Dillon. Production designer Howard Cummings. Art director Andrew Neskoromny. Set designers John Marcynuk, Allan Gaylajda, Roxanne Methot. Running time: 1 hours, 36 minutes. Tommy Lee Jones as Travis Lehman. Ashley Judd as Libby Parsons. Bruce Greenwood as Nick Parsons. Annabeth Gish as Angie. Roma Maffia as Margaret Skolowski. Davenia McFadden as Evelyn Lake.

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