Double Jeopardy (1999)

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I remember “Double Jeopardy” as one of the first R-Rated films my parents let me see. I was allowed to watch it in its entirety save for the brief sex scene between Ashley Judd and Bruce Greenwood. Revisiting it years later, I must admit it seems unfair to me that the critics hated on it so much -although the set-up and payoff are fairly standard for Hollywood fare, the plot is entertainingly fast-paced and fun. It’s no masterpiece, I’ll give you that much, but nevertheless “Double Jeopardy” is a perfectly effective film and accomplishes much of what it sets out to do. Its ambitions are modest, which seems to work in its favor.

Libby (Ashley Judd) appears to have it all- an adorable son (Benjamin Weir,) a lovely house, a devoted best friend (Annabeth Gish,) and a husband (Bruce Greenwood) who’s loaded. But her outwardly idyllic life frays at the edges when her husband frames her for his murder and disappears, and Libby is sent to prison. Befriended by two rough-hewn female convicts (Roma Maffia and Devenia McFaddem,) Libby refuses to let the news of her husband’s betrayal break her, and instead focuses on a legal factoid on of the convicts clued her in on- no one who has allegedly committed an offense can be convicted of the same crime twice.

Determined to get her son back and maybe exact some ass-kicking revenge against her husband on the way, Libby gets out on parole a changed woman, and vows to find the secret location of her good-for-nothing spouse. Her grumpy parole officer, Travis (Tommy Lee Jones, in standard grouch mode) has other ideas. So there’s your conflict, laid out for you as plain as day. This movie’s strength isn’t in its complexity, but in the slick twists and turns scattered like bread crumbs along the way.

Ashley Judd did a fine job- not award material, but believable enough, and Tommy Lee Jones is okay playing a role very typical of him. Bruce Greenwood’s Nick is a slippery little fucker, and I bought his portrayal of a manipulative psychopath (though I had trouble believing that Libby saw no hint of his true self in the years of their marriage before he faked his death and screwed up her life- really Libby?!)  The movie has a feminist vibe- Judd really does kick ass, but the feminism at play is cool and empowering rather than the annoying hysteria of many bra-burning progressives.

One flaw I do see in the films’ script is that the emotional and moral center of the film was a little too obvious and I was never really moved by the script. I really had trouble with the fact that *MASSIVE SPOILER* Libby could just kill her husband and the customary happy ending would be ensured, considering that Nick raised Libby’s son and it seems there would be some emotional ramifications for the kid since his mom offed his dad. I guess she’ll save it for his 20th birthday. *END OF MASSIVE SPOILER*

“Double Jeopardy” is not a masterpiece or anything (watch “Blue Ruin” for a truly great picture on the consequences of revenge) but it is good entertainment and an effective popcorn movie for a film night between family or friends. If you want total realism and psychological depth look elsewhere. For a fun thriller that doesn’t make you throw things at the screen too much, look no further.

Double Jeopardy

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