Twenty years ago Bruce Beresford directed an Aussie Rules Football comedy called The Club, which I wouldn’t hesitate to describe as the best and most enjoyable of all sports movies. He was also responsible for Don’s Party, Money Movers and Breaker Morant, which all have plenty of avid fans both Down Under and Up Above.
It’s not that Beresford is any kind of visual genius as a director, but his typically Australian, let’s-get-down-to-business approach can work wonders with unpromising material, particularly where the last thing the audience need is a strong directorial presence. I suspect he’s secretly proud of the fact that, uniquely in the talkies era, his Driving Miss Daisy was awarded Best Picture at the Oscars without its director even being nominated.
Double Jeopardy is his biggest box-office hit since Daisy, and it isn’t hard to see why. For the first hour it runs on rails, steaming along with an almost alarming efficiency as it sets up the story of Libby (Judd), who is framed for the “murder” of her husband, Nicholas Parsons, gets sent to prison, learns that the husband set it all up, and then is informed about the US constitution’s ‘double jeopardy’ rule which states that nobody can be convicted for the same crime twice. So, once she’s out of the slammer, all she has to do is track Nick down and give him his just desserts. This is all achieved with a slam-bang matter-of-factness that almost rivals Steve Miner’s breakneck pace in Halloween H20.
Unfortunately for Judd, and fortunately for the movie’s dramatic impetus, her plans are rumbled by her parole officer, Tommy Lee Jones, who turns the second half of the movie into a virtual Fugitive III, chasing after Judd as she scours the country in search of her husband and kid. If this review seems a bit heavy on the plot, then so is the movie. And it really is a movie, a bracingly unpretentious thriller which makes the most of its tough-but-glamorous female lead. Judd, Jones and Beresford know exactly what they have to do, and go straight ahead and do it: Double Jeopardy takes dead aim at its target audience, and hits a clean bullseye.
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