"SO, WILL YOU be reviewing this film?"
The question came from the seat next to me as the lights rose after a recent screening of "Double Jeopardy," a lame thriller about a woman (Ashley Judd) whose lying, cheating, sack-of-you-know-what husband (Bruce Greenwood) fakes his own death and frames her for his murder, only to see the little woman paroled after six years to hunt him down like the dog he is and kill him for real this time. Hell hath no fury, and all that.
My inquisitor was the same kindly woman who had earlier offered to hold my popcorn while I took notes in the dark. Now she was asking me for a preview of my soon-to-be published opinions.
I, um, hated it, I told her.
"Really?" asked my new friend in astonishment. "I thought it was very realistic and moving." She went on to tell me she had cried while she watched Judd say goodbye to her son from prison by trying to touch his hand through the plate glass divider of the visiting room (obviously she hasn't seen many jailhouse dramas). She would give the movie three stars out of four. "So, what exactly didn't you like about it?"
1) The implausible premise, for starters. When Judd's character, Libby Parsons, finds out that the scumbag she loved and thought lost is still living, her disbarred-lawyer cellmate (Roma Maffia) advises her to wait until she's released, at which point she will be free to murder her husband with impunity, in broad daylight if necessary, due to the principle of double jeopardy, the legal protection that prevents a person from being tried twice for the same crime.
Now I'm no lawyer, but even under this far-fetched notion, she would still have to face charges based on possession of a firearm by a paroled felon, not to mention violating curfew, breaking and entering, theft and destruction of property, all of which she commits while pursuing her single-minded goal.
2) There are so many unexplained plot holes the movie started to look like Swiss cheese, and I started to run out of ink writing them all down.
Why are the police constantly showing up at precisely the right moment? But why -- with the exception of Tommy Lee Jones, who plays Libby's tenacious parole officer Travis Lehman -- are they as incompetent as Keystone Kops? How is she so easily convicted of hubby's murder, in the absence of a body? What kind of incompetent defense lawyer does she have, that her first thought after the guilty verdict is not filing an appeal, but -- speaking of bad judgment -- arranging for the adoption of her son by her supposed best friend (Annabeth Gish)?
Do writers David Weisberg and Douglas S. Cook really think we'll believe that a person who has gone underground can be tracked down by a single phone call or a quick visit to the World Wide Web? How come nobody notices when Libby knocks a car off a ferry while making her escape from Lehman, who by the way doesn't seem to care about his job or the half-way house full of paroled prostitutes and ax murderers he abandons to play bounty hunter?
3) The soulless stylelessness that director Bruce Beresford of "Breaker Morant" and "Driving Miss Daisy" fame has apparently embraced in this production, brought to us courtesy of Leonard Goldberg, a one-time partner of producer Aaron Spelling who proudly claims responsibility for "developing and introducing the Made-For-Television movie format."
Need I continue?
But, my interlocutor insisted, I was being too harsh, too critically nit-picking, and don't I think that the average viewer will be far easier to please, particularly women, like her, who have recently been dumped by their own husbands (thanks for sharing)?
Furthermore, she advised in parting, I really better consult with a lawyer before I go writing that the entire backbone of "Double Jeopardy" is a crock.
"It's a no-brainer," says Lawrence Goldman of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, who says if he were prosecuting he would argue that the earlier conviction should be vacated or nullified. "Although I suspect that you will find no precedent for this, I'm sure the courts would find a way to get around the so-called double jeopardy bar. I would say that the chances of this being upheld legally are about zilch."
DOUBLE JEOPARDY (R, 106 minutes) -- Contains sex, obscenity, a bloody crime scene, gunfire, unprofessional wrestling and bad legal advice. Area theaters.