Film / Double Jeopardy

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A 1999 thriller starring Ashley Judd, Bruce Greenwood and Tommy Lee Jones. Directed by Bruce Beresford. The film begins with a wealthy couple going sailing with a yacht. The wife Elizabeth "Libby" Parsons (Judd) falls asleep for a while. When she awakes, her husband Nick (Greenwood) is nowhere to be found. What can be found is blood everywhere, on her body, her clothes, the boat's floors ... and on a knife placed on the deck. She has no idea what happened.

The Coast Guard soon arrests Libby for the murder of her husband. She goes on trial and is convicted. She entrusts her son Matty to a friend. During a phone conversation with his mother, Matty exclaims "Daddy" as if his father is actually with him. She starts suspecting that Nick is alive and well, faking his death and framing her for murder. A fellow prisoner advises her to wait until parole to do something about it, reminding Libby of the legal concept of double jeopardy: She can't be tried twice for the same crime.

Six years later, Libby is paroled and placed under the supervision of parole officer Travis Lehman (Jones). Her friend is dead and her son missing. She uses her time out to find Nick and Matty. Only now, two former spouses are out to kill each other. Lehman has to figure what is going on and make a stand of his own.

Not to be confused with the second round of the game show.

The film provides examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Lehman
  • Apathetic Citizens: A bartender shreds Libby' s "Wanted" poster, declaring, "No reward. Screw 'em.", then advises her that they will be posted all over town, then caps it off by giving her an umbrella and urging her to get out of there before the cops show up. The viewer knows that Libby is innocent, but he doesn't and for all he knows, he's happily aiding and abetting a fugitive all because there's nothing in it for him if he turns her in.
  • Asshole Victim/Laser-Guided Karma: Angie being killed by Nick. Could she really have expected any better from a guy who cheats on his wife and plans to frame her for murder?
  • Bait and Switch: Nick and Libby are snuggling outside when Angie comes to join them. She and Nick exchange a look, then solemnly declare, "We should tell her before someone else does", almost making the viewer think they're about to confess to an affair. . . only to have it turn out that Nick bought Libby a boat and that Angie was helping him arrange the surprise. Then it's subverted in that it's just as we expected—they WERE having an affair and those furtive looks were about them putting their dastardly plan into action.
  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: Nick is about to shoot Lehman for a second time and finish him off when Libby manages to grab her own gun and put several bullets into him.
  • Better Manhandle the Murder Weapon: A post-coital Libby wakes up covered in blood. She follows the trail from their cabin to the deck of the boat, and of course, picks up the bloody knife that she finds there. Sure enough, the Coast Guard appears right then, with Libby looking exactly as how Nick wanted her to look—as though she just stabbed him and threw his body overboard.
  • The Bluebeard: Nick. Gets rid of one woman by framing her for murder and sending her to prison, then tries to kill her when she gets out and tracks him down. Kills another when he either gets bored with her or worried that she'll spill the beans.
  • Buried Alive: How Nick tries to get rid of Libby after she tracks him down.
  • Car Fu: Libby uses her pickup truck to trash Lehman's car and drives over the sidewalk in order to get away from him.
  • Charity Ball: Where Libby confronts Nick.
  • Chekhov's Gun: At the beginning of the movie, Nick is discussing a Kandinsky print with a houseguest. The identical print is visible in a picture of the house destroyed in the gas explosion and Libby tracks the buyer of a replica to find Nick in New Orleans.
  • Children Are Innocent: Matty blows the whole scheme with one word—"Daddy!"—cheerfully greeting his father as he returns home. At the end, he is remarkably calm to be greeted by a mother he not only hasn't seen in six years, but was told was dead.
  • Clear My Name: Libby, regarding her husband. Not only did she not kill him, he's not even dead.
  • Conveniently Timed Attack from Behind: Nick grabs her and knocks her out (during the cemetery scene), where he had said she'd meet their son. Nick is also about to shoot her when Lehman manages to get up and jump on him.
  • Cry into Chest: As an infuriated Libby storms towards Jonathan's hotel, having escaped from the coffin he stuffed her into, she's snatched and pulled into an alleyway by Lehman, who sternly tells her "It's over, Libby." Exhausted and overwhelmed, she finally breaks down in tears and collapses into his arms.
  • Distaff Counterpart/Gender Flip: A person wrongly convicted of murder escaping from custody, determined to track down those responsible, pursued and eventually aided by an equally determined lawman played by Tommy Lee Jones? No, this isn't The Fugitive (or another sequel), but as numerous reviews pointed out, it's basically a female version of it, right down to the misleading 911 call, Libby wailing "I didn't kill my husband", and later being chased though a street fair just barely eluding capture.
  • Faking the Dead: Nick. And Lehman and Libby threaten to pull the same stunt on Nick, regarding her, if he does not turn over their son.
    • Nick has already been doing this with Libby—when she and Matty are reunited at the end, he tells her that he was told that she was dead.
  • Foreshadowing: Even if the trailer hadn't already told you everything, the little look exchanged between Nick and Angie just before he reveals that he bought Libby a boat should tip off even the most Genre Blind viewer to the fact that something's going on between them (one of the few things that was left out of the trailer).
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: Libby after Nick is supposedly killed, then after she realizes he's alive and that the beloved husband she's been mourning is a deceitful bastard.
  • Hollywood Law: As pointed out by pretty much everyone, including this column, the whole plot runs on this. Ashley Judd is framed by her husband for his own murder and serves prison time. When she gets paroled, she hunts him down and brags that she could kill him and get away with it because she's already been convicted of that crime and double jeopardy means she can't be prosecuted for it again. Problem is, she was convicted of that crime (that is, of "murdering" him at that specific time, in that specific place). Hunting him down to another city and killing him there, then, would be another crime entirely, and thus she could be justly convicted of it. Not to mention the host of other crimes she committed, including burglary, theft, destruction of property, escape from custody, assault on a law enforcement officer, unlicensed possession of a firearm, transporting an unlicensed weapon across state lines, assault with intent to kill (all of them violating her parole, which would send her back to prison) and probably more, which could put her away for years themselves, perhaps even for the same time or longer than her original sentence. Not to mention the fact that she didn't actually kill him that first time...
    • Her lawyer should also have been able to get her acquitted or a mistrial the first time. As bad as things may have looked (her covered in his blood and holding the knife, the hefty insurance policy), there should have been a myriad of people to testify to their (ostensibly) happy marriage. Surely, even ONE juror would have harbored enough reasonable doubt to cause a hung jury.
  • Idiot Ball: Nick attempts to kill Libby by burying her alive in an above ground tomb, and he doesn't take away her gun, although in all fairness, he might not have remembered that she had one. Libby counts too, for trusting Nick during the whole cemetery scene. Of course, she was desperate to see her son, but still. The irony of this is that she asked him to meet her in a public place to no doubt deter him from doing anything to her, only to fall into his trap anyway.
  • It's Always Mardi Gras in New Orleans: Not specifically stated, but Libby crashes a charity gala then later walks through one of New Orleans' perpetual street parties. Presumably, both are being held to celebrate the holiday.
    • She outright says to Nick, "I could shoot you in the middle of Mardi Gras. . .", indicating that it is that time of the year.
  • Kiss Diss: As Libby publicly confronts her duplicitous husband, she turns her head as he tries to kiss her, invoking "oohs" from the observing crowd.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: How Nick got rid of Angie. After tracking them down, Libby is informed by a neighbor that she was killed when a gas main exploded beneath the home. Libby's deadpan response of "I'm sure" when the woman tells her how grief-stricken Nick was makes it clear that she knows what really happened.
  • Mama Bear: The sole thing that keeps Libby going is her desire to be reunited with her son. She's even willing to leave Nick alone and not blow his cover story as long as he gives him to her.
  • Miscarriage of Justice: Ashley Judd's character is wrongly convicted of murdering her husband and spends several years in prison.
  • Motive Equals Conclusive Evidence: The prosecution claims Libby killed Nick for the insurance money, harping on the fact that she's the beneficiary, ignoring the fact that (a) given that she was his wife, she would naturally be this, and (b) as a wealthy couple, the payout would be larger than average. When she tries to explain to her own lawyer that Nick got the policy to make sure that she and their son would be okay in the event of his death, he counters with "there's a big difference between "okay" and one million dollars". Libby is shocked as she was genuinely unaware the amount was so large.
  • Never Found the Body: Nick. Justified as he isn't even dead, but even if he were, the natural assumption is that his body was swept out to sea after having been thrown overboard.
  • The Not-Love Interest: Travis and Libby. Most movies would have had them hook up or at least hint at it by the end, but there isn't a shred of attraction or sexual tension between them.
  • Off to Boarding School: What Nick has done with Matty. Granted, it seems to be a very nice place and he looks happy there, but it seems to add another layer of Jerkassery to Nick for sending him away rather than keeping him with him.
  • Oh Crap!: Nick's reaction when Libby approaches him at the gala, then when she confronts him in his office.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Lehman is shot in the shoulder in the scuffle between him, Nick, and Libby, but true to form, is wearing only a sling in the final scene.
  • Prisons Are Gymnasiums: Ashley Judd (!) may not bulk up all that much, but she Took a Level in Badass — understandable since she's gaining skilz with which to murder the husband who framed her.
  • Scenery Porn: Washington, and New Orleans.
  • Steel Ear Drums: Played straight to a ridiculous level. Libby fires a gun TWICE—right next to her ear—while trapped inside a sealed coffin. She cringed in pain momentarily, but is otherwise unharmed. In real life she'd have been left completely deaf.
  • The Big Easy: The entire third act takes place in New Orleans, showing off as much of it as the film can squeeze in 30 minutes.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Probably one of the most glaring examples.
  • Trapped in a Sinking Car: Libby is tied to a car in handcuffs, as she tries to escape the car she drives into the lake sinking rapidly.
  • Wham Line/The Reveal: Matty cheerfully greeting "Daddy!" as he comes home. ..while on the phone with Libby. It takes two seconds for the shocked Libby to realize that the beloved husband she's been mourning is a duplicitous bastard who's been cheating on her and framed her for a murder that didn't even happen.
  • Wrongful Accusation Insurance: As discussed above, Libby commits numerous crimes in the course of tracking down her husband, whom she's planning to kill (and DOES kill, albeit by that point, it was a genuine case of self-defense rather than a revenge killing), all of which appear to have been completely disregarded by the time the film ends.
  • You Have to Believe Me: Libby wails this verbatim while testifying at her trial.
  • Your Cheating Heart:
    "How long were Angie and you fucking before you decided to get rid of me?"


http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/DoubleJeopardy