SHE'S LIVING the good life on Seattle's beautiful Whidby Island, a place where the good life is very good indeed. Her house on Puget Sound is beautiful, her lawn rolls, and when the mood strikes, her expansive, handsome husband gifts her with the sailboat she has always coveted.
Granted, he can be a wee bit on the oppressive side. When people misidentify the Kandinskys he proudly exhibits on the walls, he's the sort of guy who corrects them and gives them an impromptu encyclopedia entry on Kandinsky, complete with dates. Is it any wonder that he sometimes wonders aloud, "Was I always as rude as I am now?" (My guess? Yes.)
Still, everything is sailing along. Husband and wife even steal away from their adorable little son for a romantic weekend on her new sailboat. It's idyllic -- until, that is, she wakes up, finds husband missing and the sheets drenched in blood. She follows the blood trail to a bloody but empty deck.
No husband. Anywhere. At that moment, the Coast Guard shows up.
She's eventually convicted of manslaughter. While serving her time, she discovers that her husband is, in fact, alive and well and living with her son and one of her former teaching colleagues in Frisco. If only she could get out to prove it.
A woman could get a mite testy about a thing like that -- until, that is, a former lawyer in stir with her tells her about the wondrous U.S. Bill of Rights -- you can't be convicted again for a crime of which you've already been convicted. So when she gets out, she could blow him into confetti on the mound of a Seattle Mariners game and the law couldn't touch her.
"Double Jeopardy" and all.
Neat premise, that. And a spiffy little action thriller by that name, too. It's user-friendly high-gloss junk starring Ashley Judd in the role Jodie Foster would have taken if she hadn't become pregnant, and Tommy Lee Jones, the movies' favorite relentless pursuer, as the parole officer on the case. He's the director of a halfway house for parolees and her pleas of innocence don't impress him a bit.
At first, he dogs her mercilessly. Eventually he softens so much that he becomes her ally. In the meantime, they chase around a lot: They knock cars off the Whidby Island ferry and have lots of mayhem-filled movie fun. The chase travels around America and ends up in New Orleans, where things are so big and easy that supposed murder victims can come back from the dead and no one gives a gumbo.
Through it all, Judd supposedly ages six years but doesn't look it. She emerges from the big house the same fetching size 2 she was before she went in.
Still, we know justice will be done and watch happily while its wheels work. A not-so-guilty pleasure here. Enjoy, enjoy.
If you look at the film list of director Bruce Beresford you discover that for a guy who got his start with Australian cinematic machismo ("Breaker Morant"), he has made an awful lot of films about women -- and in an age when such things aren't fashionable, either. Just look at "Crimes of the Heart," "Paradise Road," "Driving Miss Daisy," "Last Dance."
"It's not something I've done consciously," Beresford says on the phone. "Maybe I just sort of gravitated toward that sort of thing because other people haven't. I know from talking to other directors that they're not very keen on casting women. Male directors sometimes feel very awkward directing women."
"And then," he says, "there are other directors who say they don't like actors at all." Not him. Even in a movie like "Double Jeopardy" it shows.
Rating: *** 1/2
Ashley Judd flees Tommy Lee Jones, left, and goes after the husband who framed her for murder.
Co-starring Bruce Greenwood. Directed by Bruce Beresford.
Rated R, opening today in area theaters.