Film Scouts Reviews

"Double Jeopardy"

by Debra Lass

In Bruce Beresford's sleek new thriller, "Double Jeopardy", Libby Parsons (Ashley Judd) leads an idyllic life. Her husband, Nick (Bruce Greenwood), loves her; they have an adorable son, a close circle of friends and a beautiful, art-filled home overlooking the Pacific. One night, while on a sailing trip, Libby awakes to find herself in a blood-soaked bed; Nick is nowhere to be found. She traces a trail of blood onto the deck where it ends at the guard ropes with only the ocean beyond. On deck is a knife - the murder weapon - which she picks up just in time to be caught in the glare of a Coast Guard searchlight. Suddenly, her life shatters as she is falsely convicted and imprisoned for the murder of her husband. While in prison, Libby is sustained by the desire to be reunited with her son whose care she has entrusted to her best friend. And she learns a few things too. For instance, her best friend has disappeared with her son, her husband is still alive, she was framed, and when she is released she's free to murder him because it's illegal to be tried twice for the same crime - double jeopardy. Upon release, Libby is assigned to Travis Lehman (Tommy Lee Jones), a parole officer with a past. When Libby jumps parole, he becomes as obsessed with finding her as she is with finding her son, and the chase begins.

Now, there are a few things that you must be willing to accept before you are able to totally suspend disbelief. First, that it is plausible for a man to trail buckets of some kind of blood all over the place and disappear into the ocean and survive. Anyone who loses that much blood would be dead. Well, possibly, you say, it was goat's blood. But we'll never know because there was no DNA or blood type test. I would have gotten a new defense attorney myself. Next, while in prison, Libby hooks up with two nice gals in for murder (played with warmth and wit by Roma Maffia and Davenia McFadden) whose only interests are to help her through the hard times. Makes the clinker seem warm and cuddly. They even bake a cake for her son's ninth birthday - a clever device to let the audience know how long Libby's been in prison - which brings me to the next point. After serving only six years she is released on conditional parole. Six years for murder? Caution: Ladies, do not try this at home. You would more likely serve 16 years before being paroled. But this is Hollywood and Ms. Judd doesn't look old enough to play someone who's been in prison 16 years. So, okay six years it is. And, believe me, your parole officer wouldn't be anything like Tommy Lee Jones.

Known for his character-driven dramas such as "Tender Mercies" and "Driving Miss Daisy", Mr. Beresford has said that he's always wanted to do a thriller. Ironically, he has chosen a thriller that is also dependent upon a strong, well-fleshed-out main character. With a tight, but at moments contrived, screenplay by David Weisberg and Douglas S. Cook - co-authors of the blockbuster hit, "The Rock", - Ashley Judd is terrific in this career-making role. She brings great maturity and empathy to Libby while maintaining a rueful sense of humor, and she is genuinely likable. The handsome Mr. Greenwood is a satisfyingly slimy Nick - and I mean that in only the nicest way. In the hands of less able an actor than Tommy Lee Jones, the somewhat stereotypical Travis wouldn't be half as interesting. But Mr. Jones is probably one of the most engaging actors around and makes any movie worth the price of a ticket. While a sense of redemption is implied in Travis' actions, I would like to have seen a pivotal moment in which his own painful past is resolved. And, hats off to whomever was responsible for the omission of the mandatory (it seems) romance between the leading man well into middle age and the much younger actress - now that's refreshing.

All in all, "Double Jeopardy" is a wide-eyed roller coaster ride full of suspense and surprises with a satisfying payoff. So if you want my advice, go ahead - suspend disbelief. You won't be sorry. After all, Hollywood isn't like life; that's why we go to the movies.

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