Double Jeopardy

Hell hath no fury like a woman scored, and Libby Parsons is furious. Libby has just been framed for the murder of her husband, and now she has to stew in prison. You can’t blame Libby for being mad.

Her seemingly perfect life has come crashing down around her, and everything she holds near and dear, including her young son and freedom, have been taken away from her. While incarcerated, Libby begins to smell a rat, and with the help of some fellow prisoners, begins to set a trap.

Welcome to the derivative world of “Double Jeopardy,” a new film that feels extremely geriatric. Definitely a case of been there, done that, “Double Jeopardy” reminded me of so many other films I wasn’t sure if the writers were paying homage or just taking the easy route by ripping them off.

First and foremost, “Double Jeopardy” is “The Fugitive” with Jugs. Wait, I meant Judd, Ashley Judd. She plays Libby, the young, beautiful wife of Nick Parsons, (Bruce Greenwood), a successful businessman who share a comfortable life with their four-year-old son.

During a weekend outing on a boat, Libby is horrified when she wakes up and discovers her husband gone and that she is covered in blood. Libby faces enough circumstantial evidence to send her up the river for Nick’s murder. Of course she’s innocent, but that doesn’t stop her from spending six years in prison.

In prison, Libby meets fellow prisoner Margaret (Roma Maffia), a former attorney who helps Libby learn the ropes. When Libby discovers the truth behind Nick’s disappearance, Margaret clues her in on a legal loophole. Since Libby has already been convicted of killing Nick, she can’t be tried a second time should she decide to off Nick for real.

The legal loophole is actually a contrivance by the writers, who use numerous such devices to advance the story. The first part of the film reminded me of those cheesy Women Behind Bars melodramas with Ida Lupino. Logic is chucked out the window in order to frame, convict and sentence Libby.

That leaves writers David Weisberg and Douglas S. Cook plenty of time for Libby to track down Nick and her son, all the time evading her parole officer, played by Tommy Lee Jones. So basically we have an innocent person framed for the murder of their spouse, who spends the rest of the film evading a law enforcement officer while trying to prove their innocence.

Hmm, where have I seen that before?

I don’t necessarily mind that the writers have ripped off “The Fugitive.” If you’re going to steal, at least steal from the best. What taunts me is that “Double Jeopardy” is played out so matter-of- fact that there’s little room left for originality or true suspense.

You know going in where the film is headed, and despite a couple of minor side trips, the road has been paved with cliches and predictability. The events and characters are so familiar you leave the theater with a feeling of deja vu.

It doesn’t help matters that director Bruce Beresford treats all of this like a walk in the park rather than a suspenseful game of cat and mouse. The film looks great, but despite some genuine theatrical flourishes, seems trite and unnecessary. It’s hard to invest in characters when their fate has been predestined.

Judd is such a natural actress that she manages to make Libby more dimensional than the screenplay allows. She finds nuance in the quiet scenes, and displays grit and determination when her character finally rises to the occasion.

Even though Jones remains one of my favorite actors, you feel like he’s slumming here. His role as good ole’ boy parole officer Travis Lehman is nothing more than a twist on his Sam Gerard character in “The Fugitive.” Jones has played that role three times now, and “Double Jeopardy” is definitely a case of going to the well once too often.

The writers seem overly concerned with plot mechanics rather than character motivation. They’re more interested in getting characters from point A to point B rather than their motivation for making the trip. If they don’t care, why should we?

Old fashioned and predictable, “Double Jeopardy” is the kind of film Hollywood used to make back in the 40’s, with someone like Joan Crawford or Bette Davis as the wronged woman seeking revenge. Hollywood still makes these kinds of films. They’re usually made for Lifetime cable, where such relics aren’t forced to face the same scrutiny as their silver screen counterparts.

One would tend to believe that elevating this type of fare to the big screen would give it more edge. That assumption couldn’t be farther from the truth.



Ashley Judd, Tommy Lee Jones, Bruce Greenwood, Roma Maffia, Annabeth Gish, Davenia McFadden in a film directed by Bruce Beresford. Rated R. 105 Minutes


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