2 Stars Movies

Double Jeopardy is one rewrite away from working

Not to imply that screenwriting and revision are easy, but Bruce Beresford’s Double Jeopardy is only one rewrite away from being a decent action thriller. The elevator pitch is obvious enough (The Fugitive… but with a lady!), but it truly does have a killer hook: jilted woman – framed for a murder that not only did she not commit, it didn’t even happen – is legally free to actually commit the crime if she wishes. Give it a solid cast (Ashley Judd and Tommy Lee Jones in roles they could both do in their sleep), and it should have been a home run.

Ashley Judd in Double Jeopardy

It does all start out rather well, surely better than its generally poor Letterboxd reviews would imply. But the plot holes and implausibilities quickly pile up and you find out why people hate it. There are lots of issues to point to, but I was frustrated by its two biggest problems:

  1. The failure to identify what should have been the core of the story: Tommy Lee Jones’ character coming around to believing his quarry may be innocent. Instead, he simply pursues her for a while, and suddenly offhandedly mentions near the end that he figures she didn’t do it. What should have been a key story beat was underplayed to the point of almost vanishing.
  2. The final confrontation makes no logical sense. If Judd and Jones find her supposedly dead murder victim alive and well, then problem solved, right? Simply drag him in front of a judge and all of Judd’s problems go away. But no, instead they propose some sort of insane double-wrap-around blackmail scheme that makes no sense whatsoever, which produces a scuffle and then she shoots him anyway.

I suspect the filmmakers were working backwards from a premise they were too attached to.

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