Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Bruce Beresford
Stars: Ashley Judd, Tommy Lee Jones, Bruce Greenwood, Annabeth Gish, Roma Maffia, Davenia McFadden, Daniel Lapaine, Benjamin Weir.

This exciting suspense thriller is probably the most formulaic of ex-patriate director Bruce Beresford’s mainstream Hollywood films yet (Silent Fall, Last Dance, etc). Yet he proves himself more than capable of handling this familiar genre material with the same panache and skill that he brings to even his more intelligent and personal film projects.

Slickly written by David Weisberg and Douglas S Cook (The Rock), Double Jeopardy is an action film that will also strongly appeal to a female audience.

The film centres around Libby Parsons (Ashley Judd, from A Time To Kill, Kiss The Girls, etc), a woman who wakes to a nightmare during a pleasure cruise. She is covered in blood, and her husband Nick (Bruce Greenwood) has gone missing. Eventually, Libby is charged with Nick’s murder, and even though the body is never found, the circumstantial evidence against her is overwhelming. When she is sentenced to prison, she arranges for her best friend Angela (Annabeth Gish) to take care of her young son Matt.

But Angela soon disappears. By chance Libby discovers that Nick is still alive and living with her in San Francisco. Realising that she has been framed and betrayed, she starts planning for her revenge when she is released from prison. A fellow inmate informs her of the law of double jeopardy, which simply means that, since she has already been convicted of her husband’s murder once she can now kill him with impunity.

However, Libby is no Rambette, but rather a woman out to redress a wrong, although she proves herself quite adept at handling herself in tricky situations. She doesn’t want to kill her husband, she merely wants her son back and a chance to reclaim her life. But first she has to escape her parole officer Travis Lehmann (Tommy Lee Jones), who won’t hesitate to throw her back in jail if she steps out of line while under his watchful eye. Jones is again in Fugitive mode, playing a gruff, laconic law enforcement officer whose dogged pursuit of a runaway felon eventually, and reluctantly, turns into a search for the truth about a miscarriage of justice. The desperate chase takes the pair half way across America.

Judd has her meatiest role yet here, and is quite convincing as the desperate woman prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to find her son. With The Terminator, James Cameron forever changed the perspective of female action heroines, and Judd establishes a credible and formidable presence. Greenwood (from Exotica, etc) is good as the smarmy villain of the piece, and he oozes insincerity.

Even the scenery, ranging from Vancouver to New Orleans is great to look at and provides a superb backdrop for the fast paced action. The plot has a few flaws in it, but Beresford proves such a dab hand at handling the pace throughout that audiences are given little time to dwell upon them until after the credits have finished rolling.

Double Jeopardy‘s success at the box office will undoubtedly propel him into the same league as compatriots like Phillip Noyce, who have also established themselves as top notch directors of formulaic Hollywood action thrillers.

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