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March 2000


Rated: R

CAST: Tommy Lee Jones, Ashley Judd, Bruce Greenwood, Annabeth Gish, Roma Maffia, Davenia McFadden, Jay Brazeau

DIRECTOR: Bruce Beresford


Convicted of the murder of her husband Nick, Libby Parsons (Ashley Judd) serves six years in prison before being granted parole and placed in a half way house under the strict supervision of ex-law professor Travis Lehman (Tommy Lee Jones). Certain that Nick (Bruce Greenwood) is still alive and armed with the knowledge she cannot be convicted of the same crime twice, Libby sets out to solve the mystery and find her son Matty, with Lehman in pusuit.


From the same director who brought us "Driving Miss Daisy" and "Tender Mercies" (plus a whole bunch of films I've never heard of,) we have now "Double Jeopardy" directed by Bruce Beresford, starring Ashley Judd and Tommie Lee Jones.

We first meet Elizabeth Parsons, played by Judd, as she's lovingly teaching her beautiful son, Mattie, how to fish in front of their palatial Pacific Northwest mansion. It's so idyllic, you know it's all going in the toilet pretty fast, and I'll confess, I loved that. (Only a true sicko like myself finds comfort in inevitable doom.)

Still, this is cinema and the pace in which Elizabeth is arrested for her husband's murder, tried, sent to prison and released is so methodically rushed, it borders on the ridiculous. This may be an editing room decision but the first half of the film is in such an obvious frantic speedwalk to get the scenario set up for the denouement, there's barely time to absorb it and care for the main character's plight and unbelievable bad luck.

However, all is not lost. The film is saved by three components, the first being juicy twists. I don't want to reveal them (only black-hearted evil critics do that) but suffice it to say that Elizabeth gets a very useful tip in prison. There is a Constitutional amendment referred to as "Double Jeopardy" where you cannot be convicted for the same crime twice. In other words, if she should come upon her husband in the middle of Times Square after she's released from prison, she can shoot him right between the eyes, then go catch a show and the law cannot touch her. Pretty swank deal, huh?

The second key part is Ashley Judd, who has the great fortune of being incredibly gorgeous and ultra-talented. I appreciate these qualities in a movie star; I'm talking Jessica Lange-type royalty here. Her character is so driven by love and hate, it's hard not to root for her . . . ahem, mission.

The third factor is Tommie Lee Jones, who is such an old favorite uncle to the audience by now, people clap just when he appears - maybe it's that cowboy accent or that weathered face or the twinkle of mischief in his eye. He plays Elizabeth's parole officer, Layman, an ex-law professor with some baggage of his own. Jones character reminded me of Harvey Keitel's character in "Thelma & Louise," a rough lawman who slowly changes his perspective out of a few bald facts and some connective simpatico. These two are only on the same side for a brief time but the actors make a believable team.


"Double Jeopardy" is worth the effort; it is smarm-free and has an almost zero cheese factor. Furthermore, this is only the beginning for the capable Ms. Judd.

Heather Clisby of
Movie Magazine International