Double Jeopardy is a routine thriller that has an interesting, if somewhat implausible, premise mixed with a heavy dose of The Fugitive deja vu. We’re left with a half baked concoction that is more perplexing than thrilling.
When we’re introduced to Libby Parsons (Ashley Judd), she has it all: a wonderful husband, Nick (Bruce Greenwood), a loving son, a perfect life. Wouldn’t you know it, but it’s all about to end. One evening, while sailing with Nick, she wakes up covered in blood and with a missing husband. She commits the classic movie mistake of guiltily grasping a bloody knife she finds on deck…unfortunately, in the full view of the authorities who just happen to appear at that time out of the night.
Before you know it, Libby is serving a prison term for murder. She leaves her son in the care of her best friend, and stoically serves her time. However, during a chance phone call, she learns that that scoundrel Nick faked his own murder and set Libby up for the blame.
A fellow inmate gives her a bit of lawyerly advice: Since Libby is already serving time for killing Nick, once she is free, she can legally kill him. Of course, the legal advice doesn’t hold water in the real world, but this is just a movie. Before you can say “Linda Hamilton”, Libby sets about buffing herself up, getting in prime physical shape to kill. The only man who can stop her now is U.S. Marshal Sam Gerard…oops, I meant to say Parole Officer Travis Lehman (Tommy Lee Jones).
Ashley Judd is charming as Libby…so much so that you never for a second believe she’s capable of being a murderer, much less a hardened ex-con. However, she quickly earns our sympathy as a woman seriously wronged, and we root for her unethical quest for revenge.
Tommy Lee Jones simply goes through his Fugitive/U.S. Marshals actions, presumably as the filmmakers intended. Though he doesn’t have a team this time to whom to bark orders, he barks them anyway, and you know, in the end, he’s going to get his man…or woman. The film tries to give him an extra bone to munch by making him a recovering alcoholic. But, though the film starts to establish this as a major character point, in the end it only amounts to filler.
The film is packed full of plot twists, but the only one that is truly surprising is in the initial setup. Afterwords, Double Jeopardy tries to be spontaneous…but it fails. The film reaches the conclusion it does because the filmmakers decreed it from upon high, rather than resulting naturally from the flow of the story.
Most movies require you to take a leap of logic now and then. Double Jeopardy feels like a game of hopscotch. You finish one leap, and must take another…and another. Pretty soon, you’re too tired to care how the whole thing ends up.
Familiar, and not very exciting, Double Jeopardy has the elements of a good thriller, but no one bothered to assemble them. Instead, we’re given a rehash of familiar characters and situations that never quite come together.