by Eric D. Snider
Released: September 24, 1999
In "Double Jeopardy," dollars values are doubled, and there are two Daily Doubles on the board.
No, wait, I'm thinking of the second round of the TV show "Jeopardy!," which, by the way, usually has far more suspense and exhibits way more intelligence than the movie "Double Jeopardy."
Libby Parsons (Ashley Judd) wakes up one night to find herself covered in blood and her husband Nick (Bruce Greenwood) gone a-missin'. He's dead, apparently, and she's made out to be the culprit, with courtroom scenes full of damning 911 tapes ripped off from "The Fugitive." ("Ripped off from 'The Fugitive'" is a recurring theme in this movie.)
In prison, she meets a couple of hardened female cons, one of whom looks exactly like Gary Coleman and one of whom used to be a lawyer before she started killing people (figures). She also finds out, through means too complicated to explain here (the movie's not very good about it, either, now that I think about it), that her husband is not dead, and that he's living with former co-worker Angie (Annabeth Gish).
The lawyer-turned-murderess tells Libby about something called the U.S. Constitution, which Libby seems not to have heard of before. In this peculiar document, citizens are protected from "double jeopardy": being tried twice for the same offense. Libby, the ex-lawyer reasons, is free to go ahead and actually KILL Nick, and she couldn't be charged for it -- she's already been convicted of that, after all.
I'm no scholar, but I don't think it works that way. Never you mind, though, because within 35 minutes of the film's beginning, Libby is out on parole after having spent six years in the big house. Now, we think, she's going to find her husband and kill him. Not so. The movie was only toying with us when it told us that. Turns out she really just wants her son back. Never mind that the whole killing thing seemed so appealing in prison, or that the movie's title is based on that premise -- she just wants her boy.
Enter Tommy Lee Jones, who is quickly become the highest-paid unattractive man in show business. He plays the same character he played in "The Fugitive" and its inferior sequel, "U.S. Marshalls": a hard-nosed, one-eyebrowed man who only wants justice. His name is Travis Lehman (pronounced "Laman"), and he doggedly pursues Libby to New Orleans, by way of Colorado, where Nick has apparently done some other damage.
"Double Jeopardy" is all talk and no action, all set up and no payoff. We never really learn why Nick faked his own death and framed his wife, especially considering his subsequent actions (I won't spoil it), nor why he goes to such great lengths to dispose of her when she shows up again, nor why the movie decides to rip off "The Vanishing" when he does it. Hints are made about Lehman's past, but they go unresolved. Libby's mom gives her a potload of money to go on her search, no questions asked, in a scene that seems like it must have started a few minutes before we got there.
This is a movie that wanted to be thrilling and ingenious, but that didn't want to put forth the effort to achieve those goals. It's not a bad movie, per se, but neither is it very exciting or clever. It's strictly by-the-numbers, with a generic ending and soppy resolution. I'll take "The Fugitive" for $1,000. Please.
Rated R, language, a scene of sexuality and some violence
Copyright © Eric D. Snider.
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