Ashley Judd in Double Jeopardy (1999)
Double Jeopardy (1999)
Stories & Ideas

Fri 02 Oct 2020

ACMI Re/commends: Double Jeopardy

ACMI RecommendsFilmPop cultureReadRetrospective
Maria Lewis
Maria Lewis

Writer & Editor, ACMI

Bruce Beresford’s 1999 domestic thriller is Ashley Judd's peak.

Never has the delivery of two simple words – “hello, Nick” – evoked such a visceral, physical reaction where anyone watching Ashley Judd deliver them can’t help but throw their arms in the air and fist pump enthusiastically. Such is the power of Bruce Beresford’s 1999 domestic thriller Double Jeopardy.

It came during a wave of 90s thrillers that existed within their own sub-genre of “ugh, men” which included flicks like Julia Roberts vehicle Sleeping With The Enemy, Sally Fields in An Eye For An Eye and Jennifer Lopez’s Enough (even though that came just on the other side of the millennium in 2002). Judd was the undisputed queen of the “ugh, men” sub-genre due to other notable mentions like High Crimes, Kiss The Girls, and Twisted. Yet Double Jeopardy is her apex mountain, not in terms of critical acclaim (Heat and De-Lovely probably) but certainly in terms of box-office: it was one of the biggest hits of her career, which is notable considering flashier fare like Divergent ($289M) and Olympus Has Fallen ($170M) exist in that filmography.

Yet with a global theatrical haul of $177M and at least double that as word-of-mouth spread with the home entertainment market and video rentals (ah, remember when that was a thing?) no other movie has better used all of the weapons in Judd’s arsenal. That includes her humanity, emotional vulnerability, yet also her steeliness, her physical competency, and that hard-to-define quality that was no better encapsulated than with one smooth hand gesture warning Val Kilmer in Heat.

It’s a deeply satisfying tale of revenge as Libby (Judd) is convicted of murdering her husband Nick (Bruce Greenwood), only to find out a) he’s still alive b) staged his own murder and c) framed her for it before running off with the nanny. It’s through her fun new prison friends (truly, Double Jeopardy had to walk so Orange Is The New Black could run) that she learns about "double jeopardy" – an American legal loophole that means you can’t be convicted of the same crime twice. Cue workout montage and meticulous planning as Judd sets out to kill the man whose murder she has already served time for. Featuring Greenwood in primo oily mode and Tommy Lee ‘I don’t want to be here’ Jones as her parole officer turned unwilling accomplice, it’s a taut and timeless thriller that has gained a new life in the streaming era.

– Maria Lewis, Writer/Editor

Stream Double Jeopardy on Netflix

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