Judd and Jones find 'Double' trouble
By CHRISTINE KRALY
Scene Movie Critic
Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. That scorn is what makes "Double Jeopardy" hell to watch.
Take the trite story of a woman-on-the-run seeking revenge, throw in a bizarre underwater car scene, add a twist of Louisiana charm and you've got "Double Jeopardy." Murder and deceit have long been components of any suspense film. But what makes the suspense work is not knowing what's going to happen next. This is why "Jeopardy" fails.
The story centers around a woman, Libby Parsons (Ashley Judd), who is framed for killing her husband Nick (Bruce Greenwood). Usually, a plot like this would be a great "whodunnit" two hours of figuring out who set her up and why. But anyone paying attention to the movie's publicity campaigns would know that the film's trailer and its commercials have already revealed the answers to some of these questions.
Ads and TV spots have played up "Jeopardy" as the time when a woman can finally get back at her husband legally and without consequences. In fact, according to law, she could kill him and not be arrested if she's already been convicted of the crime the unsurprising plot of "Jeopardy."
The audience is introduced to Nick and Libby at a dinner party they are throwing at their home, a nice little place right on the water, where Libby can show her son Matty how to fish. This is the oldest trick in the book to see how perfectly happy the family is, and know it can only go downhill.
Soon we find out that Nick is losing money in his business. Although it's never really revealed how, viewers infer it from a very vague discussion he has with colleagues. He, of course, doesn't tell Libby because then how can he frame her for murdering him if she knows why? He and Libby then take a quiet trip alone on a boat Nick has just bought for her.
Libby wakes up in the middle of the night to find her husband missing and blood everywhere. She then follows the tradition of many other wrongfully accused movie heroines she picks up the presumed murder weapon, a bloody knife.
How appropriate then that a Coast Guard boat happens by at the same time Libby, in her blood-stained nightgown, touches the weapon presumed to be used to killed her husband. This is when the viewer becomes the writer.
Libby is then convicted and sent to jail. It's in jail where she discovers the truth behind her conviction her husband is behind the whole thing. The audience knows exactly where the plot is going. We know she'll seek revenge because movie-goer minds and hearts know that's what she's supposed to do.
Through her years in prison, Libby forms friendships with fellow inmates, one of which introduces her to the double jeopardy law. Her revengeful wheels start turning and now she is more determined than ever to get out and find her son. Here's where the stereotypical body-building scenes come in: Libby runs, lifts weights and sweats her determination to make things right. Think Sylvester Stallone running to take on communism in "Rocky IV."
Once out of jail, Libby is sent to a home with other women on parole, where she meets Travis Lehman (Tommy Lee Jones), a parole officer with a bad attitude. Libby escapes the clutches of Lehman's control and runs away to find her son. Lehman follows her, and eventually he reluctantly helps her, sympathizing with her since he too has a daughter he hasn't seen in years.
Her journey ends exactly how the audience expects it to end with tears, sweeping music and a reunited love. What is not expected is how cheated the audience feels cheated for the $7.50 paid for a nail-biting mystery.
"Double Jeopardy" takes a simple, overused storyline and twists it into a complicated and boring one. It is not a movie for those who love figuring things out, for the challenge-seeker. The viewer essentially writes the screenplay because its predictability leaves nothing to chance.
The film is a movie for women angry at their husbands. It can give them a release in seeing a woman take charge and take revenge.
This is not to say "Double Jeopardy" is wholly unentertaining. Jones' comical timing saves some light scenes from complete boredom and clichι. But these moments are few and far between, and neither Jones nor Judd can escape safely from "Jeopardy."
Two out of five shamrocks
All Scene Stories for Thursday, September 30, 1999