Director Bruce Beresford last hit pay-dirt when he paired Jessica Tandy and Morgan Freeman in Driving Miss Daisy. And while he might not scoop any Oscars for Double Jeopardy, Ashley Judd and Tommy Lee Jones are proving to be every bit as lethal a combination at the US box office.
Judd and Jones separately are good; together they are electric. However, the scenes they share are few and far between. Jones' irascible Lehman is always a couple of steps behind as she hares across the States in search of her missing son and errant husband. But it seems odd that Jones, not Judd, receives top billing when he's onscreen for little more than 30 minutes while she's rarely off it.
Judd throws herself into the kind of role usually reserved for muscle-bound action heroes. Having spent her six years behind bars working out and training for revenge, Libby emerges from jail looking, if anything, even more gorgeous than she did when she was locked up. And with exactly the same hairstyle. She's barely checked herself into a halfway house before she's busted out again, breaking and entering a nursery school, being chased by a couple of cops and finding herself handcuffed to a car that's rapidly sinking to the bottom of a lake.
Yes, there's plenty of action in Double Jeopardy, but, sadly, there's very little suspense, with black-and-white characterisation which leaves you in little doubt of the outcome. (There's a pretty hefty clue in the title, come to think of it.) It would have been a far better film if it had contained an element of ambiguity; if Nicholas hadn't been such a conniving weasel from the very beginning; if there was a slight possibility that Libby had indeed hacked her husband to death.
As it is, Delia Smith would make a more convincing murderess than Judd's unremittingly nice Libby. It's never entirely clear why parole officer Lehman would effectively throw away his career to pursue one runaway ex-con when he has a whole apartment block full of them to harass back home. Then again the ex-con in question is Ashley Judd, so perhaps it's not such a mystery.
Yet despite the lack of suspense and a fair share of gaping plot holes, Double Jeopardy does entertain. There are some inadvertently funny moments: sniggers will ripple around the cinema when it's revealed that Libby's oily cad of a husband goes by the name of Nicholas Parsons. But the lively pace ensures that you'll stay alert and interested, and while you may not care whether poor Libby and her son eventually escape the evil clutches of Nicholas Parsons, at least you'll enjoy the ride.
Fine performances, an interesting premise and a cracking pace elevate this routine thriller to well above average. However, if you're a convicted murderer, don't start sharpening your cleaver just yet: apparently the film's not entirely legally accurate.
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