Double Jeopardy (1999): Beresford’s Crime Thriller, Starring Ashley Judd and Tommy Lee Jones

Aussie Bruce Beresford, now working in Hollywood, directed Double Jeopardy, a crime thriller starring Ashley Judd as a woman wrongfully imprisoned for murder she did not commit.

Libby Parsons (Judd) and her husband Nick (Bruce Greenwood) are wealthy residents of Whidbey Island, Washington. With her best friend, Angela Green (Annabeth Gish) offering to look after her 4-year-old son, Matty (Benjamin Weir), Libby and Nick go off sailing for the weekend on their yacht. After a session of love making, Libby falls asleep and is found by a Coast Guard patrol with her husband missing, blood all over her and the boat’s floors.

Nick’s body unaccounted for,  butLibby is arrested, humiliated in the media, tried, and convicted of murder. Libby asks Angela to look after Matty during her prison sentence. At first, Angela brings Matty to see Libby in prison, but after a while, the visits cease and she disappears. Libby tracks Angela back to San Francisco, calls her and speaks with Matty. In the midst of their conversation, Matty exclaims, “Daddy!” before the line goes dead.

Libby realizes that Nick possibly faked his death and framed her, leaving Matty as the beneficiary of his insurance policy.  She is told by fellow inmate Margaret (Roma Maffia) that if she were to get paroled for good behavior, she could kill Nick with impunity due to the Double Jeopardy Clause inthe Constitution.

Paroled after six years in prison, she begins searching for Nick and Matty while living in house under the supervision of parole officer Travis Lehman (Tommy Lee Jones), a former law professor whose wife and daughter left him after the family was in a car accident with him driving under influence.

Libby violates her curfew and breaks into Matty’s school on Whidbey Island trying to get Angela’s records. However, as Lehman is delivering Libby back to prison via a ferry, he handcuffs her to the car door handle and goes for a drink.  Libby drives the car back and forth to knock off the door handle. When Lehman returns, they struggle until the car goes overboard. Lehman uncuffs her, and Libby knocks him out and swims to shore while Lehman is rescued. She goes to her family farm, where her mother gives her cash to search for husband and child.

Libby discovers that Angela has recently died in Colorado in a gas explosion, likely an accident staged by Nick. Tracing clues leads her to New Orleans, where she finds Nick running a luxury hotel under the name of Jonathan Devereaux. Libby demands Matty in exchange for her silence about his identity.

In the French Quarter, Libby is tipped off by a bartender who recognizes her from a poster but lets her escape. Nick agrees to bring Matty to a meeting in Lafayette Cemetery No. 3, where he uses a decoy boy to distract Libby, before knocking her unconscious, and locking her in a casket. Using a handgun she had snatched from Lehman, Libby shoots the hinges off the casket lid and escape the mausoleum.

While tracking Libby in New Orleans, Lehman begins to believe Libby’s story, based on clues uncovered in his search. He finds a picture of a different Nicholas Parsons when searching the Washington State DMV records, and later uncovers six DMV records under that name, including Nick’s DMV application and photograph. He intercepts Libby in the city and the two team up.

Lehman records a remark by Nick that he had murdered his wife, the only witness to his past. Nick is given a choice of surrendering to the authorities or getting shot by his vengeful wife. Nick pulls out a hidden gun and shoots Lehman, but the latter brings him down before he can kill her. Nick gets the upper hand forcing Libby to shoot him dead.

Lehman and Libby travel to Matty’s boarding school in Georgia. Matty (Spencer Treat Clark), though now 11, recognizes his mother and they embrace.

Cast
Tommy Lee Jones as Travis Lehman
Ashley Judd as Elizabeth “Libby” Parsons
Bruce Greenwood as Nicholas “Nick” Parsons/Simon Ryder/Jonathan Devereaux
Annabeth Gish as Angie Green/Angie Ryder
Roma Maffia as Margaret Skolowski
Jay Brazeau as Bobby Long
Michael Gaston as Cutter
Daniel Lapaine as Handsome Internet Expert
Dave Hager as Jim Mangold
Benjamin Weir as Matty Parsons – Age 4
Spencer Treat Clark as Matty Parsons – Age 11
Davenia McFadden as Evelyn Lake
Betsy Brantley as Prosecutor
Babz Chula as Ruby