"Double Jeopardy" is a stylish thriller in which the stars, not their characters, get away with murder. 

"Double" Your Pleasure

If you've seen the trailers for "Double Jeopardy," a sturdy entry into the good, old-fashioned suspense genre, you no doubt believe you know all there is to know about the movie. Well, gentle viewers, think again.

The trailer succinctly sets up the story of Libby (Ashley Judd) and Nick Parsons (Bruce Greenwood) a well-to-do couple living the good, romantic life near Seattle. We know that after a particularly romantic getaway Libby awakens covered in blood. She panics, screaming for her husband.

But he's nowhere to be found. Instead, she stumbles upon a bloody knife just as the Coast Guard cuts through the fog alongside her sailboat. In short order, the lovely Libby is convicted of murdering her husband, thanks to circumstantial evidence and a $2 million life insurance policy.

Then, as the trailer also quickly lets us know, it seems ol' Nick ain't feeding the fishes after all. When Libby discovers the truth, her fellow prison debs explain to her the finer points of the law — i.e. "double jeopardy." Since you've already been convicted of killing your husband, explains one savvy, caring convict, once you get out you can really kill him and the law can't do a thing about it.

So now you're thinking — as I was — all that's left is some tragic Greek-style vengeance and confrontation between Libby and Nick. With a little venom left over for the other woman — Annabeth Gish — who helped this monumental betrayal take place. Boy, were we wrong. All of that happens in the first 15 or so minutes of the movie — and Tommy Lee Jones hasn't even made an appearance yet.

Jones plays Travis Lehman, a parole officer whose losing battle with alcoholism has ruined his life and career. He's now in charge of a halfway house for paroled prisoners. Libby ends up as one of his charges. When she takes off, a cross-country chase full of suspense, unexpected twists and near-hits and misses ensues. The plot also contains a few whopping plot impossibilities. But while one could argue that "Double Jeopardy" rarely veers off the well-worn formulaic path of thrillers, what makes it so much fun is the undisputed star power of its leads. As Libby and her bloodhound Lehman, Judd and Jones get away with murder.

Jones, whose "Fugitive-esque" turns of late seem to border dangerously on self-parody, here brings something new to his dogged determination to catch Libby before she makes a fatal mistake. But there's also a grudging respect for her resourcefulness, something Lehman's usual black-and-white approach to law doesn't normally factor in. But Judd is the fresh air here, offering a warm and winning portrayal of more than a woman scorned — we're talking a mother bear fighting for her cub.

Equally impressive is how director Bruce Beresford (who's responsible for many, better films than this) brings out the subtleties in Libby's character. There's a strength to her character that only blossoms in adversity. Even though we follow her as she tracks her smarmy husband across the country, we're never really sure her resolve won't crack and she'll do the sensible thing and quit. But while we're contemplating that possibility, Jones' resolve is also showing signs of weakness. Could the tenacious Libby be telling the truth?

"Double Jeopardy" seems perfectly attuned to the fall season: Offering stylish entertainment with just enough chill in the air.


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