Continuing the Ashley Judd series of movies that I for some reason keep putting on my Netflix list, I decided to give Ms. Judd a second chance by watching Double Jeopardy. By now, we all know the formula: pretty young lead and older, grizzled veteran team up to fight crime. Only in this case, the twist is that Libby Parsons (Judd) is actually on the wrong side of the law.
Libby lives in perfect harmony with her husband Nick (Bruce Greenwood) and son Matty (Benjamin Weir). Only Nick is a particularly vile brand of sleazeball. While away on a boating trip (and after a scene that involves far more of Judd than Twisted every showed), Libby wakes up with her husband missing and blood on her hands…literally. She is tried and convicted for murder.
Sounds like a quick end to the movie, right? Not exactly. Libby discovers that her husband is still alive and has since shacked up with Libby's best friend, Angie Green (Annabeth Gish). As one inmate succinctly explains, Libby can kill her husband, since she can't be convicted of the same crime twice. Why? Because that would be…DOUBLE JEOPARDY!
"…the state says you already killed your husband right? So, when you get out of here, you track him down, and you can kill him. You can walk up to him in Times Square put a gun to his head and pull the trigger and there's nothing they can do about it! Kinda makes you feel all warm and tingly inside don't it?"
This is, of course, patently untrue. In Movieland, Double Jeopardy makes it seem like killing her husband would let her get off without any punishment. In reality, Libby could be tried by the state government instead of the federal government, for another separate but related crime, or worst of all, end up with her son being taken away from her. The real driving force in the movie is Libby's love for her son, a child that obviously can't be left in the manipulating clutches of her murderous husband.
In essence, the whole premise of the movie is a tease. It's not even important whether or not double jeopardy applies; it's clear that Libby doesn't want to kill her husband anyway. "I don't want to kill you, Nick," says Libby. "I just want you to suffer." She wants her son back, and that's that.
Somewhere in the middle of this mess is the redoubtable Tommy Lee Jones as Travis Lehman, in the same role of a parole officer he played in The Fugitive and U.S. Marshals. His role is largely irrelevant, except to represent the ever-present threat of the law that dogs Libby's ever step.
Everyone speaks their lines with the appropriate level of enthusiasm, but really, there's not a whole lot for anyone to do. Mostly, Libby pines for her son, slowly unraveling the tangled web her husband has weaved to cover up his hasty departure from life and marriage. Somehow, Libby doesn't manage to age at all in the years she's been in prison.
The best part of the film is when Libby, dressed to the nines, confronts her husband at a charity auction. If the film were half as good as that scene, it would have been truly something. Instead, we have a lackluster script, a flimsy premise, and the talents of Tommy Lee Jones wasted on what amounts to the Female Fugitive.