Everything is what it seems in Paramount's latest action-adventure thriller. If you've seen the trailer, then you already know the formula. It's one part Ashley Judd, able-bodied heroine from "Kiss the Girls"; one part Tommy Lee Jones, erstwhile u.s. marshal from "The Fugitive"; and a whole lot of not-so-nifty storyline that follows him chasing her chasing a despicable louse who deserves what's coming to him.
The good news in this uninspiring enterprise is that director Bruce Beresford moves things along at an economical clip. Little time is wasted on common sense. Instead, the first thirty minutes of exposition has attractive spouse-mother Libby (Ashley Judd) taking a boat ride with husband Nick (Bruce Greenwood), being framed for his supposed murder, and somehow ending up in prison for six years.
While biding her time and dreaming of a far-off reunion with her only son, the pouty but pretty Libby learns that she was not only railroaded by the justice system, but also by a dead husband who turns out not to be dead at all. In an effort to abscond with their son, Libby's best friend Angie (Annabeth Gish) whom he'd been seeing on the side, and $2 million of insurance money, crafty Nick pulled a fast one on the authorities and our heroine.
In a montage of mere minutes equal to movie years, Libby has pumped up, buffed out, served her time and discovered a little nook in the legal system. It seems that, golly, if Libby's already been convicted of murdering her husband, she can't be convicted again if she were to actually commit the deed. Although this argument might not stand up to a reality check, in Hollywood, the concept's as good as gold.
The rest of "Double Jeopardy" has Libby ditching no-nonsense parole officer Travis (Tommy Lee Jones) and seeking out her son and wayward husband from Alaska to Washington and Colorado and finally to the backwater bayou of New Orleans. As with any adventurer in this movie genre, the heroine grows increasingly clever as she gains more ground. By the time she arrives in Louisiana, she even knows how to swipe an evening gown to sneak into her hubby's social affairs.
Throughout these proceedings, Judd and Jones do their best to keep their straight faces and earn their paychecks. While there aren't any real surprises, and the film often scrambles (with its intermittent car chases and a tacked on underwater sequence) for anything resembling tension, "Double Jeopardy" is also not a total embarrassment. The cast plays upon the strengths that made their previous films successful, and thankfully, the script doesn't require them to strain too much under the familiar circumstances.
Of course, this kind of calculated professional effort doesn't require much thought, or stand up to much of it immediately after viewing. Beresford and company have all been party to much better films. Here, they're simply out to have good commercial fun without trying too hard. While that may leave audiences looking for award-winning material out in the cold, chances are it'll be thrilling enough for calorie junkies still pumped from the summer fare.
* MPAA rating: R, for language, a scene of sexuality and some violence.
Tommy Lee Jones: Travis Lehman
Ashley Judd: Libby Parsons
Bruce Greenwood: Nick Parsons
Annabeth Gish: Angie
Roma Maffia: Margaret Skolowski
Davenia McFadden: Evelyn Lake
Paramount Pictures presents a Leonard Goldberg Production. Director Bruce Beresford. Producer Leonard Goldberg. Screenplay by David Weisberg & Douglas S. Cook. Cinematographer Peter James. Editor Mark Warner. Music Normand Corbeil. Costumes Ruby Dillon. Production designer Howard Cummings. Art director Andrew Neskoromny. Set designers John Marcynuk, Allan Gaylajda, Roxanne Methot. Running time: 1 hours, 36 minutes.