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Brokedown Palace

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Brokedown Palace

Starring: Claire Danes, Kate Beckinsale
Director: Jonathan Kaplan
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 1000 Minutes
Release Date: August 1999
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Bill Pullman, Lou Diamond Phillips, Jacqueline Kim, Daniel Lapaine, Amanda De Cadenet, Paul Walker

Review by Walter Frith
2 stars out of 4

How much trouble can you get into abroad when trusting strangers? Quite a bit if you witness the film 'Brokedown Palace' which is sort of a female version of 1978's 'Midnight Express'. In that film, based on a true story (which won Oliver Stone his first Oscar in the category of Best Adapted Screenplay), an American named William Hayes was caught trying to willfully smuggle drugs out of Turkey and was caught at the airport and sentenced to life imprisonment. That film showed his criminal attempt, his capture, his trial, his sentencing and his torture at the hands of prison officials which was disturbing to watch at times. Director Alan Parker was able to capture the sadistic aspects of human rights gone awry and the film had depth, brutal imagery and an overwhelming sense of violence necessary to the film's point. 'Brokedown Palace' is a lukewarm version of this, told with a sedated sense of benign occupancy and little power to really make it fly.

Two high school graduates from Ohio (Claire Danes as Alice Marano and Kate Beckinsale as Darlene Davis) are about to enjoy freedom away from the classroom. They decide to embark on a journey for the summer to Bangkok, Thailand where a friend told them that it is possible to spend the whole summer there for about $500 U.S. Deciding to expand their horizons, the two young women go and find this third world tourist spot isn't all it's cracked up to be. Their $6 a night hotel is infested with cockroaches, and it's dirty, tiny and they have to share the same bed. After seeing the sites, dancing away the night life and getting closer to the leisurely side of life they meet a seemingly friendly Australian chap named Nick (Daniel Lapaine) to whom they open their hearts. He is able to convince them both to take a trip with him to Hong Kong. The girls are nabbed by Thai authorities at the airport in the form of a small army, complete with machine guns to intimidate the most erratic criminal and the girls are arrested. Their crime? Smuggling drugs out of the country without their knowledge. Of course, they're innocent. This happens when they trust a cab driver to put their bags in the trunk on the way to the airport and the girls are duped into being naive patsies and a diversion for the real drug smuggling to go off without a hitch.

At their trial, they are both deemed to be of poor character. An incident is brought up by the prosecution regarding how the two tried to pass themselves off as guests at a ritzy local hotel, sitting by the pool and ordering expensive drinks. This doesn't look good for them and based on this fact and different circumstantial points they are convicted and sentenced to 33 years behind bars. An American lawyer practicing in Hong Kong (Bill Pullman) tries to handle their case and finds little support from a U.S. embassy official (Lou Diamond Phillips) who doubts the girls are innocent.

Director Jonathan Kaplan who made the very lacerating 'Unlawful Entry' in 1992 and directed Jodie Foster to her first Oscar for 'The Accused' in 1988 strikes out this time around with a story too sedated for its own good. There are some good moments in the film and there are moments of deep dramatic presentation and a fairly good performance from Claire Danes as one of the convicted but Kate Beckinsale gives a rather stiff performance and the screenplay by Adam Fields and David Arata lacks emotional fire and the overall presentation of the film is comparable to having the feeling that a nightmare such as this should be more intoxicating and should put the audience over more with its protagonists but little sympathy is generated for them and this is wrong since they are innocent! The film has a good ending in my view. It's a mix of sorrow and happiness together but may be the wrong way to end the film in the eyes of many and you may feel that nothing concrete has been accomplished and that the whole point of the film may be lost since the bad will seem to over shadow the good.

Copyright 2000 Walter Frith

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