Tuesday 25 January 2022

Movie Review: Double Jeopardy (1999)

A murder and revenge mystery thriller, Double Jeopardy offers attractive locations and a willing cast, but far-fetched plot points.

In Whidbey Island, Washington, Libby Parsons (Ashley Judd) is devoted to her young son Matty and believes she is happily married to businessman Nick (Bruce Greenwood). But after a passionate night with Nick on board a luxury yacht, she wakes up to a nightmare: Nick is missing and the boat is covered in blood. With overwhelming circumstantial evidence lined up against her, Libby is convicted of her husband's murder and imprisoned.

While serving her sentence she stumbles upon evidence Nick is still alive under a new identity, and has run off with her supposed best friend Angie Green (Annabeth Gish) and Matty. Seething with rage, she plots revenge after learning she cannot be re-tried for killing Nick again. Once released, Libby tangles with parole officer Travis Lehman (Tommy Lee Jones), who has troubles of his own and interferes with her quest to locate her husband and child.

Adopting a very generous definition of a legal principle preventing a defendant standing trial for the same case twice, Double Jeopardy adopts a full-speed-ahead, look-good-and-don't-worry-about-the-details stance. Director Bruce Beresford just about makes it work. A magazine shine coats the action, a bit of humour is sprinkled into the mix, and on-location beauty and colour all distract from the many logic holes.

Everything happens within a proverbial blur. Libby's trial is over before it begins. Her incarceration lasts six years, but the prison hardships presented in the script (courtesy of David Weisberg and Douglas Cook) resemble, at worst, a bad day at summer camp. Once she sets her mind on revenge Libby embarks on a physical training regime: it consists of one lap around the prison courtyard in the rain, and a couple of lifts on a weight machine.

All the in-built fast-forwarding is necessary to introduce Travis Lehman and allow Tommy Lee Jones to enter proceedings as the crusty parole officer. Jones is here to complicate Libby's revenge agenda with his pre-established chase-the-fugitive credentials. But unfortunately this coincides with the narrative losing steam, Beresford prolonging the middle third with plenty of relatively docile side-chases, until Travis and Libby catch up with Nick (now pretending to be hotelier Jonathan Devereaux) in a picturesque New Orleans.

The final act benefits from Bruce Greenwood oozing evil smarm and completing the triangle of Libby's determination and Travis' character restoration. Double Jeopardy glosses over the law, but doubles down on the gloss.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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