[Screen It]


(1999) (Claire Danes, Kate Beckinsale) (PG-13)

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Drama: Two teenage girls' friendship is threatened when they find themselves facing drug charges while on vacation in a foreign country.
Alice Marano (CLAIRE DANES) and Darlene Davis (KATE BECKINSALE) are best friends who decide to forgo their post-high school graduation trip to Hawaii for a more adventurous one in Thailand. Not telling anyone about their change of itinerary, Alice -- the more carefree of the two -- and Darlene -- who's more reserved -- arrive in Bangkok and immediately set out to have some unsupervised fun.

When they overstretch their luck, a smooth talking and handsome Australian, Nick Parks (DANIEL LAPAINE), comes to their rescue and proceeds to sweep them off their feet. It's Darlene, however, who ends up sleeping with him, and the next day she convinces Alice to head off with her and Nick on a side trip to Hong Kong.

Although initially reluctant, Alice agrees, but before they can board their plane, the two are arrested and heroin is found in one of their bags. Immediately sent to prison, the two are confused, frightened and suspicious of the other. Things then get worse when they're found guilty and are sentenced to serve thirty-three years.

The only bright spot in their future is an American expatriate lawyer, "Yankee Hank" Greene (BILL PULLMAN) and his partner/wife Yan (JACQUELINE KIM), who've decided to see what they can do to free the girls. From kissing up to an influential official, Roy Knox (LOU DIAMOND PHILLIPS), to searching for the elusive Nick, Hank and his wife look for clues that may prove promising to the two girls as they try to adjust to Thai prison life.

Probably only if they're fans of Danes or Beckinsale. Otherwise, the dour sounding plot will probably keep most other kids away.
For brief strong language, drug related material and some violent content.
  • CLAIRE DANES plays a carefree and wild at heart high school graduate who convinces her friend to change their travel plans and not tell anyone. Of course they end up in prison, and she shows disrespect for Darlene, others and even herself. She also cusses and smokes marijuana in one scene. In the end, however, she redeems herself by making a sacrifice.
  • KATE BECKINSALE plays her more reserved best friend, who also cusses a bit and sleeps with Nick after having just met him.
  • DANIEL LAPAINE plays an Australian who fools the girls into thinking he's an okay guy when he actually set them up for a fall so that he could continue with the rest of his drug smuggling.
  • BILL PULLMAN and JACQUELINE KIM play an expatriate American lawyer and his Thai wife who come to the girls' defense and work hard to find some reason for the girls to be set free.


    OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
    Following on the heels of last year's "Return to Paradise" and similarly reminiscent of the Oscar winning "Midnight Express" comes 20th Century Fox's release of "Brokedown Paradise." Before you roll your eyes and exclaim, "Not another friends get busted on drug charges in a foreign country movie," you might be enticed to know that its director previously helmed the disturbing and riveting rape drama, "The Accused" (for which lead actress Jodie Foster won an Oscar).

    Thus, the question that obviously follows is whether this film from director Jonathan Kaplan ("Unlawful Entry," "Bad Girls") will garner critical acclaim and perhaps some nomination(s) of its own, or if it will disappear as fast from theaters as did that 1998 Vince Vaughn/Joaquin Phoenix film (that grossed only a bit more than $8 million domestically).

    Despite the inherently powerful, if somewhat tired premise, the film never manages to take off as a riveting courtroom drama, a harrowing prison story, or even a good character study of teens and what constitutes friendship between them.

    Designed to appeal to teens enamored with lead actress Claire Danes, the film simply skirts along all of the above issues to such little effect that it could have been called "Thai Express Lite." Apparently named for the rundown prison in which the girls find themselves -- prisoners seem to have a thing for giving places of incarceration nicknames such as "The Rock," "The Hanoi Hilton," etc... -- and despite the presence of cockroaches, a belligerent inmate (there's always at least one in every prison) and having their long, flowing locks cut short, the two girls here just don't seem to have it that bad.

    Other than facing a thirty-three-year sentence (okay, that's bad), they get plenty of time outdoors, only experience one brief beating, and heck, even get to smoke a joint in the prison yard in front of everyone without any repercussions. Perhaps those stringent Eastern countries have double standards for male and female prisoners, but the girls' imprisonment seems more like a teen-based, MTV fantasy about such a place instead of the truly harrowing experience it probably would be.

    That's not to say, though, that the two young actresses who play the leads don't try to emote such hardship and terror through their behavior and facial expressions. As the two once bubbly teens- turned jailbirds, both Claire Danes ("The Mod Squad," "The Rainmaker") and Kate Beckinsale ("The Last Days of Disco," "Shooting Fish") deliver decent performances, but are saddled with a mediocre script by first time screenwriter David Arata (who works from a story he developed with fellow first timer Adam Fields).

    As such, the girls initially have the "But we're Americans" defense, but that soon segues into the far important debate/near catfight regarding whether Alice also slept with the guy who set them up. While I recognize the teen angst and jealousy that's preprogrammed in their hormone-laden brains, I kept waiting and wishing for anyone to remind them that a) the guy ruined their lives and b) that they'd both be in the midst of menopause and their would-be suitor in his sixties or seventies by the time they were freed.

    Kaplan and company do miss what could have given their relationship a bit more zing, and that's introducing more doubt in both the girls and the audience's mind about whether one or both of them might actually be guilty of the crime. With such a wild card thrown in, the tension between the two and its effect on their chances of getting out could have been more satisfyingly tangible, but alas, it wasn't to be.

    The more satisfying part of the story concerns the legal maneuvers and investigation carried out by their lawyers, effectively played by Bill Pullman ("Lake Placid," "The Zero Effect") and Jacqueline Kim ("Volcano," "Disclosure"). Although their part of the story doesn't offer many surprises and pretty much follows the standard "get 'em out of jail" tactics, at least it works better and is more intriguing than the "girls in a foreign prison" moments.

    Even so, the film offers nothing particularly new to this sort of story, and clearly nothing as troubling and/or thought provoking as in "Return to Paradise" (that dealt with whether a friend would go back to serve time to save his imprisoned friend from being executed). While that film was far from perfect, at least it had some discussion generating substance to it. Of course this one might have teens arguing about whether Claire or Kate looks better with their new, cropped "do" or what group sings the pop songs that play over the prison scenes (as occurs in all prison movies, right?).

    With a last-minute tactic that may moisten the eyes of some emotional viewers but will evoke the gag reflex in most everyone else and particularly with jaded critics, the film ends on what's supposed to be a happy, but also tragic and moving final note. Had more prior depth or compassion for the characters been present, such an ending could have been far more powerful.

    As it stands, it feels too contrived -- and nearly hokey -- for its own good. Not horrible, but far from good or proving there was any reason to revisit this sort of story, "Brokedown Palace" rates as just a 4 out of 10.

    The following is a brief summary of the content found in this PG-13 rated, teen-based drama. Profanity is rated as heavy due to 1 use of the "f" word, while other "milder" profanities and colorful phrases are present. One of the girls smokes a joint after being imprisoned, and there's some talk about the heroin that was found in their bag (but no use of it occurs). The girls and other students also drink in earlier scenes and some smoking also occurs.

    The girls have bad attitudes -- and particularly as led by Alice -- for not telling their parents about their travel changes, and toward others and each other after their arrest and imprisonment. During their incarceration, Alice briefly has her arms beaten by a guard.

    One of the girls sleeps with a stranger they've just met (although we don't see anything), and a brief, but strong sexual comment is made about that. We also briefly see some nonsexual nudity (female bare butts in a prison shower).

    Should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness for anyone in your home beyond what's just been described, we suggest that you take a closer look at the listed content for further details.

  • Students drink at a party.
  • The girls order drinks while sunbathing poolside and we then see that they've had several.
  • People have drinks at a nighttime dance, including Nick. Later done with his drink, Nick throws his hotel glass to the ground. He also tells Darlene that she forgot her drink and she says that she's had enough.
  • While the girls are charged with transporting heroin, we only see one tin pulled from their bag (but never see the contents), although the police later report that they were carrying six tins with a total of six kilos of heroin.
  • Another prisoner states that she was "high" (from drugs) and a comment is made about smuggling drugs inside a person.
  • Darlene's father makes a comment about Alice denying that she was responsible when he found beer cans in their car when they were sixteen.
  • Some officials have drinks at a kickboxing contest.
  • Alice smokes a joint in the prison yard in clear sight of everyone. Darlene then asks her if getting stoned is a good idea and Alice replies that yes, if she wasn't on drugs, she'd kill someone.
  • Hank meets a woman who's reportedly a junkie, but we don't see her doing any drugs.
  • Seeing Darlene stumbling about in a stupor, another prisoner says, "Whatever she's on, I want some."
  • Knox has a drink and then pours himself another one.
  • We hear Alice peeing in a toilet.
  • Alice convinces Darlene to go to Thailand instead of Hawaii and both lie/don't tell their parents of their travel changes.
  • The girls somewhat mock and then laugh about the Thai people and their religion (while bowing at an altar of sorts) and Darlene's father later questions why in the world she'd want to come to Thailand.
  • The girls crash a fancy hotel, sunbath poolside and then order drinks and charge them to another person's room. Later, Nick admits to having picked up someone's room key and that's the room he charges for the girls drink as he "rescues" them from embarrassment.
  • Done with his drink, Nick throws his hotel glass away from him and to the ground.
  • Everyone involved with the setup of the girls to carry drugs for them and then be arrested obviously has both (and this involves many people/authorities).
  • Both girls develop bad feelings/behavior toward each other and other people after spending some time in prison (this is more true for Alice than Darlene).
  • Another female prisoner has it out for Alice and tries to get her in trouble.
  • A guard takes a bribe.
  • A waiter becomes suspicious of the girls and the room to which they've charged their drinks and calls them on their bluff.
  • The girls are arrested at gunpoint.
  • A female guard throws Alice to the floor and then repeatedly cracks her wrists/forearms with a baton for breaking a rule (that she didn't know about).
  • The girls try to escape from the prison at night.
  • Rifles: Carried by soldiers/police/guards.
  • Phrases: "Sh*thole," "Bloody hell," "Wanker," "Bugger," "Nuts" (crazy), "Retarded," "Piss off," "Jeez," "Pissing," "Suckers" and "Scumbag."
  • Both Alice and Darlene wear midriff baring outfits.
  • The girls crash a fancy hotel, sunbath poolside and then order drinks and charge them to another person's room.
  • Done with his drink, Nick throws his hotel glass away from him and to the ground.
  • Alice gives "the finger" to the guard. Later, Darlene does the same to Alice.
  • None.
  • A mild amount of suspenseful music occurs during the film.
  • None.
  • At least 1 "f" word (used sexually), 11 "s" words, 2 slang terms for male genitals ("d*ck"), 2 damns, 1 crap, 1 S.O.B., 1 hell, 1 use each of "wanker" and "bugger" and 6 uses of "God," 5 of "Oh my God," 4 each of "G-damn" and "Oh God," and 1 use each of "For God's sakes" and "My God" as exclamations.
  • We see Alice in a small bikini (while Darlene is in a more conservative one-piece suit).
  • We see Darlene and Nick kissing and it's then implied that they slept together (by later comments, but nothing is seen).
  • We see a few female prisoners' bare butts in a group prison shower.
  • We see Hank's wife get out of bed wearing just a long shirt (but don't see any nudity).
  • Jealous of hearing that Alice was also with Nick, she asks her, "Did you f*ck him too? Of course you did" (although Alice admits they only kissed).
  • Alice smokes a few times as do prison guards and a few prisoners.
  • We also see Hank give cigarettes to Alice and Darlene (the one time the latter smokes) and cigars to Knox (he smokes one).
  • Alice mentions that she was seven when her mom died, and we then see that her father isn't willing to help get her out of jail.
  • The girls not telling their families their change of travel plans (and other disrespectful behavior) and also hanging out with a stranger while overseas.
  • How other countries deal with drug charges as well as how their legal systems work.
  • A female guard throws Alice to the floor and then repeatedly cracks her wrists/forearms with a baton for breaking a rule (that she didn't know about).
  • We see some kickboxing violence at a contest.
  • A guard hits Alice, sending her to the ground.

  • Reviewed August 9, 1999 / Posted August 13, 1999

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