Have you watched 1999’s Double Jeopardy lately? It’s on Netflix Instant right now. Please don’t take this question as a tacit recommendation. If you haven’t watched it lately, I’m not sure you necessarily need to. Then again, I was howling with laughter when I sat through all 105 minutes of it the other night.
Should you be unfamiliar with this hit thriller starring Ashley Judd and Tommy Lee Jones, here’s the basic plot: A wife and mother goes out on a sailboat with her husband. She wakes up covered in blood in the middle of the night, and he’s disappeared. She goes to prison for six years. During that time, she realizes that her husband framed her and is now with her best friend. A fellow inmate tells her that, because of double jeopardy, she could kill her husband “in the middle of Time Square” and not be punished.* She’s already done her time for killing him! So when she gets out, she hunts him down.
This sounds pretty simple, right? Imagine the taut, 70-minute version Barbara Stanwyck could have made in the 1930s! However, because this is 1999, things aren’t so simple. Or clear. Or well-written. For instance, we are never told what Ashley Judd’s prison sentence is until she’s already been serving time and someone’s like, “Wow, six years already!” And then when she’s released, she lives in a halfway house with Tommy Lee Jones as her parole officer. She has a strict curfew, but she’s already waited six years! She can’t wait a second longer to reunite with her son! Although she mistakenly identifies not one but two strangers as her son over the course of the movie!
So she breaks into a school to track down her ex-best-friend, Angela. She gets Angela’s social security number, but the cops also get her. What’s a gal to do when her parole officer is toting her back to prison via a ferry? Drive his car into the water, of course! Then steal his gun as she’s drowning, hit him over the head with it, and swim to shore.
No one makes a move to catch this shivering, soaked woman. She heads straight to her parents (neither of whom showed up for her trial), and her mother digs up a metal box filled with cash from her tomato bed. “I always said there was good money in tomatoes!” she jokes to her ex-convict daughter, on the run from the law.
A lot more happens, like Ashley Judd using Angela’s social security number to track down her latest address via a car salesman running a credit report, then going to said address and discovering that Angela died when the house exploded three years ago. I’m pretty sure that would have shown up in the credit report?
Her dastardly husband fled town after the house blew up, so Ashley Judd trails him down to New Orleans (with Tommy Lee Jones trailing her; he has some boozy backstory but who cares), where he has a fancy boutique hotel and an even fancier Southern accent. All she wants is her son, she demands after causing a stir during a bachelor auction by bidding $10,000 on him. (I guess no one ever asked her for the check.) He promises to deliver their son the next day in a cemetery.
So the next day she chases after some random boy in the cemetery, who leads her to a crypt where her husband slams her head into a pillar and then puts her in a coffin with a corpse. The coffin isn’t secured in any way, and yet Ashley Judd has to shoot the hinges off? And although her husband did lock the crypt’s door, she just smashes through a stained glass window and hunts him down.
Tommy Lee Jones believes her at this point.
But when she finally catches up with him, she doesn’t want to kill him. Although she tells him that because of double jeopardy, she could kill him in the middle of Mardis Gras! (She updated her fellow inmate’s Times Square reference for topicality.) She wants him to serve time just like her. Until he tries to kill her and Tommy Lee Jones, at which point she shoots him dead. And guess what? Since she’s technically still his wife, she inherits the hotel and all of the Kandinskys! (Which were a major plot point, by the way.)
Like I said, don’t take my asking if you’ve seen this movie recently as a tacit endorsement.
*This is not exactly how double jeopardy works, needless to say.