Double Jeopardy

Double Jeopardy (1999)
Paramount Home Video
Cast: Tommy Lee jones, Ashley Judd, Bruce Greenwood
Extras: Featurette, Trailer

"Double Jeopardy" was one of the action highlights of last year at the box office. An action murder thriller in the vein of "The Fugitive" and interestingly enough, also starring Tommy Lee Jones. Although some elements of "Double Jeopardy" may be reminiscent of the chase of Dr. Richard Kimble, the story is actually a very different one, giving the filmmakers plenty of material to work with, much of it rather original to the genre – if that is at all possible.

Libby Parson (Ashley Judd) is happily married and raises her son Matty in the peacefulness and tranquility of their million-dollar home. One day her husband (Bruce Greenwood) takes her out to a sailing trip on the lake and after a steamy night of lovemaking, Libby awakes covered in blood. She follows the bloody trail that zigzags across the floor of the boat and finds signs that her husband has been stabbed and fell overboard.

A search-and-rescue mission does not produce the body and shortly after, her husband is declared dead. But that’s when the trouble starts for Libby. With her husband officially considered dead and seemingly murdered, she is the prime suspect in this unsolved case. She is put to trail and sentenced for a murder she did not commit. She asks her friend to take care of her son and although imprisoned, she tries to keep up with him on a regular basis. One day when she’s talking to him on the phone she discovers that her husband is not dead. He has constructed a case to have her put to jail so that he can collect the insurance money for his won death.

At first, Libby is intent on having the case re-opened, but another inmate – a former lawyer herself – tells her about double jeopardy, a legal clause that makes sure noone can be tried for the same case a second time. Since Libby has already been on trial for the murder of her husband, once free, she could potentially walk up to him and publicly kill him in broad daylight without facing any further criminal charges. A plan is born in Libby’s idea and when she’s released on parole after six years imprisonment, she puts her mind onto executing it with minute accuracy.

The idea to create an action thriller around double jeopardy is quite interesting, especially because it has not been as overused as many other clichés of the genre. To make the main hero a female one is another great addition to the mix and makes "Double Jeopardy" a very appealing film. Ashley Judd is coming across great as the calculating wife with only one thing on her mind. Restoring her life and making her cheating husband pay back. She is never coming across as overzealous or frantic, but always determined and on top of things. Tommy Lee Jones once again puts on the role as the hard and commanding man with a heart. I especially enjoyed his play towards the third act of the movie when he realizes that Libby is indeed right and that she had been put to jail for a crime she did not commit. There are a few moments in the film where the filmmakers conjure up age-old clichés and break some of the logics of the film, but it is usually so well executed that the viewer doesn’t get distracted from what is actually going on.

Paramount Home Video is presenting "Double Jeopardy" in a <$PS,widescreen> transfer that preserves the movie’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. The transfer on the DVD is <$16x9,enhanced for 16x9> television sets and reveals a great level of detail. Without defects or scratches, the source print delivers a very stable and clean image that has been nicely reserved on this DVD. With great shadow delineation, the transfer creates solid blacks and deep shadows that never lose any of their definition. The highlights are balanced and always give the image the correct range of contrast to work with. Colors are very strong and nicely rendered, reproducing even the slightest changes in hues and tones. No <$chroma,chroma noise> or color bleeding is evident anywhere on the transfer and the fact that no edge-enhancement is visible throughout the movie’s presentation, gives this DVD a very film-like look. Digital artifacts that are a result from the material’s compression are nowhere to be found on this great release from Paramount Home Video.

The disc features a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> audio mix that is just as good. Well integrated, the track makes very aggressive use of the format’s split surrounds, whether it is in quieter scenes where the surrounds are used to create an active ambient field, or during the action scenes where sounds and noises from all directions engulf the viewer. The lively scenes in the French Quarter of New Orleans are especially well designed, bringing the restless atmosphere of Bourbon Street to life perfectly. The track’s bass extension is also very good without overemphasis, always creating a good ’bottom’ for the movie’s soundtrack. Alternative <$DS,Dolby Surround> tracks in English and French are also available on the disc, both of which are also well produced but do not exhibit exactly the same wide sound field and full range frequency response as the <$5.1,5.1 mix>.

The supplements on this release are limited to the movie’s trailer and a short "behind-the-scenes" featurette that mostly reuses footage from the film with some sporadic interview snippets and a few looks on the set of the production. Although it is nothing truly spectacular, it gives some nice insight, especially in the car/ferry stunt.

Although many parts of "Double Jeopardy" are predictable through the implicit nature of the film and the genre, the movie is never boring. We know that we’ll get to see the successful pay-off at the end, but we don’t know exactly how it will look like. And it is especially there that the filmmakers come up with some great ideas that give the story some wicked edges. The daringness and determination of Libby as a character also help immensely to create some interesting movie moments that are unexpected and rather unique. The great presentation Paramount Home Video is delivering on this DVD adds to the package, making this a great release for all popcorn and action film fans.