One day of short of a year before Brokedown Palace came out, another Thailand prison movie came out called Return to Paradise. While the movies aren't exactly the same, the themes are very similar, and the results are about equal.
Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale star as the two girls who are put in prison, and both deliver pretty believable performances. I knew Danes can act, but I didn't know anything about Beckinsale. There are some character traits that seem a little out of whack, though. Danes, for instance, gets frustrated several times through the movie and puts down Thailand, even in front of the judge. I'm sure at first the American attitude might call for this, but after a short while, I think anybody who was locked up would smarten up and try to coax the situation, not make it worse.
Brokedown Palace is mainly a prison movie, but there is also some investigative work based around Bill Pullman's character. I actually enjoyed this much more than the character-based prison scenes, which basically deal with Danes and Beckinsale trying to remain friends while at the same time suspecting each other of doing the crime. Back to the investigative work... there are some smart little twist and turns, and Pullman seems to be getting so close as to who the real "Nick" is... and then it just disappears. The strongest part of the movie fades into nothingness by the end.
I'd also like to note that I was glad when the two girls were put in prison, because I was a) bored of the cheesy fun they were having, and b) annoyed at seeing them smile at each other ever ten seconds. Just watch the movie and count how many times Claire Danes smiles before she gets put in the slammer.
Return to Paradise had a sad ending, and, unfortunately, so does Brokedown Palace. I don't understand why Thailand prison movies always have to end up with a sad conclusion. The movie's theme is sticking up for each other (similar to Paradise), but I still feel disappointed about the ending. I guess that means I got to like the characters, but is a sad ending really necessary? Why don't they just let the girls go and then people can leave the theater or turn off the video tape with a feeling of satisfaction.
Brokedown Palace is a mildly entertaining film, but it takes a long time to gather momentum and then breaks down in the end.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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