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Brokedown Palace (1999)

What is your dream? How far would you go? Who could you trust?

Directed by:

Jonathan Kaplan

Rating: 6/10

Running Time: 100 minutes

US Certificate: PG-13 UK Certificate: 12

On DVD

Country: United States

The concept of Americans being thrown into foreign jails by dastardly Third Worlders isn’t exactly an original one down Hollywood way. As far back as 1978 we had Brad Davis doing Turkish porridge in Alan Parker’s ‘Midnight Express’, while more recently ‘Return to Paradise’ and ‘Red Corner’ have worked along similar lines.

‘Brokedown Palace’ offers a teenage girlie slant on the formula, pitching Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale as two high school chums conned into smuggling drugs through Thai customs by a devilishly-handsome Aussie (Daniel Lapaine). They’ve barely arrived at the airport when they’re busted, carted off to court, and swiftly sentenced to 33 years in a Bangkok choky.

Of course, knowing how these sorts of films generally work, it’s not at all surprising to find that the girl’s case is riddled with inside-corruption – so step forward Bill Pullman as “Yankee Hank”, an American (never!) lawyer who apparently knows the Thai legal system like the back of his hand.

It’s not a fantastic film: the plot has several holes which tend to detract from its credibility and got under this reviewer’s skin. It’s also a little too short to do itself justice, and ends up skimming over points that you can’t help but feel should be made more prominent. The harshness of the jail, for example, isn’t emphasised enough, and Pullman’s character is underdeveloped (it might have been better to put more weight on his greedy side to start off with, and then show his change as he comes to sympathise with the girl’s plight).

However, it’ll stick in my mind for two reasons: the performances of the two young leads (this is possibly Danes’ best display to date), and the braveness shown by the writers in throwing in an unexpected ending. Those two points alone make this worth a watch.

It's Got: Some hilariously bad acting from Tom Amandes as Beckinsale’s dad.

It Needs: To tie up some of its loose ends and fill in its plot holes.

DVD Extras Some filmographies and a trailer. DVD Extras Rating: 2/10

Alternatives:

Midnight Express, Red Corner, Return to Paradise

Summary

Enough to put you off Thailand for life!! And drug-smuggling, for that matter.

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