Brokedown Palace

"Weak"

Brokedown Palace Review


It would be a lot easier to take "Brokedown Palace" seriously as an Americans-imprisoned-abroad drama if the soundtrack wasn't peppered with chart-bound, pensive chick-pop. With empowering anthems from the likes of P.J. Harvey regularly laid down to illustrate its perceived depth of emotion, this movie makes being framed for drug smuggling and locked up in a dingy Thai prison play like little more than a vaguely deep, teen movie metaphor.

The teens in the case are Alice (Claire Danes) and Darlene (Kate Beckinsale), fresh out of high school and spiriting away to the Far East for one crazy summer before starting college.

Two apple-cheeked 18-year-olds, innocent in the ways of the Third World, their spontaneous Asian adventure (they told their parents they were going to Hawaii) begins with carefree cultural touristing at farmers markets and $6-a-night hotels. But it becomes a grim nightmare when a handsome young Australian (Daniel Lapaine) charms them both senseless, then hides heroin in their luggage after inviting them to visit him for a weekend in Hong Kong.

Searched at the airport, the girls are arrested and find themselves ensnared in a system where guilt is presumed and justice is very hard to come by.

An earnest -- if failed -- effort with strong key performances, "Brokedown Palace" beats on the drum of self-discovery while it weaves a tale of desperation, perceived betrayal, unjust imprisonment and legal frustration.

The girls enlist the help of "Yankee" Hank, a self-interested, American expatriate lawyer (Bill Pullman), who takes their case only after securing a fat sum wired from Darlene's father. Of course, Hank grows a heart during his pursuit of their freedom, stoked by the exasperation he feels hitting a bureaucratic brick wall despite pretty clear evidence of the girls innocence -- or at least of their naivete.

But director Jonathan Kaplan -- who never shied away from harsh reality when he made his best film, "The Accused" -- soft-peddles everything here, from the prison conditions to the mental health of our heroines. Alice and Darlene take turns unraveling ever-so-slightly and mistrusting each other for a moment here and a moment there, but the weight of their 33-year sentences never seems to settle on them as the movie moves in the direction of a noble sacrifice for friendship and a forced, absurdly upbeat ending.

It can't have been easy for Kaplan, trying to make a realistic movie about a tested feminine camaraderie set against a Third World prison, especially when he had to skew it toward the blissfully suburban and girlie Claire Danes demographic.

Given such a restriction he did an admirable job, even managing to stir a little emotion from such dime-store allusions as a fellow Western prisoner pounding her heart while giving Alice and Darlene a chins-up sermon about how "you find your freedom in here."

Danes and Beckinsale ("Cold Comfort Farm," "The Last Days of Disco") are very talented actresses who, like Kaplan, perform well within the restrictions this film puts on them, frolicking playfully and appealingly in the travelogue portion of the movie (and looking fresh and sweetly sexy, I must say), and tempering their despondency with precision once the unpleasantness kicks in.

But it's just that acquiescent tempering that keeps this movie from measuring up to something like last year's "Return to Paradise," a very similar but much more authentic and distressing exploration of youthful Americans on trial for drug crimes in Singapore.

To be frank, that movie had more dramatic leeway because it featured a slightly older -- and more importantly, male -- protagonists (Vince Vaughn and Joaquin Phoenix) facing horrible prison terms.

Call me a sexist for pointing this out, if you like, but as harsh as it is -- the thought of someone doing hard time in a dank, roach-infested prison -- it's a lot easier to swallow when if prisoner is a scruffy young man instead of a soft-skinned sweetheart like Danes.

Ultimately, "Brokedown Palace" must kowtow to this fact or become box office poison (I certainly wouldn't want to see it end with one of the girls dying in jail), and by doing so, its credibility is unavoidably shot.



Brokedown Palace

Facts and Figures

Run time: 100 mins

In Theaters: Friday 13th August 1999

Box Office Worldwide: $13M

Budget: $25M

Distributed by: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment

Production compaines: 20th Century Fox

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 31%
Fresh: 11 Rotten: 24

IMDB: 6.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Jonathan Kaplan

Starring: as Alice Marano, as Darlene Davis, as Hank Greene, as Yon Greene, as Roy Knox

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The kill-or-die scenario that this movie hinges on isn't something new; it's been used in...

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

With the more dumbed-down title Fast & Furious 8 outside of North America, this overcrowded...

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

British writer-director Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea) is an expert at digging beneath the...

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

Julian Barnes' Booker Prize-winning novel is adapted into a remarkably intelligent, gently involving film anchored...

The Boss Baby Movie Review

The Boss Baby Movie Review

There isn't a lot of subtlety in this madcap animated comedy, which is more aimed...

Advertisement
City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

After the latest incarnation of Dredd, director Pete Travis shifts gears drastically for this complex...

Going in Style Movie Review

Going in Style Movie Review

This is only technically a remake of the iconic 1979 film starring movie icons George...

Graduation Movie Review

Graduation Movie Review

Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) recounts another staggeringly detailed...

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

This sci-fi thriller is so visually stunning that it deserves to be mentioned in the...

Free Fire Movie Review

Free Fire Movie Review

Basically a 90-minute shoot-out, there isn't a lot to this movie. British filmmaker Ben Wheatley...

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

Based on a true story, it's the historical aspect of these events that holds the...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.