Reminiscent of RETURN TO PARADISE, BROKEDOWN PALACE is an intense, but flawed, drama of two high school graduates from Upland, Ohio who plan a trip to Thailand as a final hurrah before they go out into the world. However, these two best friends have no idea what is in store for them on this journey.
Alice (Claire Danes) is the feistier and spunkier of the two who persuades the more practical minded Darlene (Kate Beckinsale) to change their original planned Hawaiian vacation to the more exotic Thailand. They start out their venture by sneaking into a luxurious hotel and ordering drinks by the pool pretending they are staying at the hotel. This lie comes back to haunt them later. When they are found out, they are rescued by a charming Australian, Nick Parks. He enchants and captivates both of the girls and ends up spending the night with Darlene, causing Alice to become jealous. However, he gets Darlene to persuade Alice to join him in Hong Kong for a little side trip so he can show them the city. Darlene succeeds at convincing Alice, although it is against her better judgement.
The girls’ nightmare begins at the airport, as they are ready to board for Hong Kong. Suddenly, the Thai police retrieve their bags and apprehend them. Upon discovering several kilos of heroin, they proceed to arrest them. They are thrown into Brokedown Palace, the Thai Women’s Correctional Facility, and are charged with drug smuggling. It becomes evident that Nick placed the drug’s in Alice’s bag and used the girls as a diversion while other drug couriers passed by with even greater amounts of drugs. However, how do they prove this when there is no listing for Nick Parks?
An American attorney living in Thailand, Hank Green (Bill Pullman), and his wife hear about the girls case and eager to make some money, decide to accept it. Predictably, they get personally involved as time progresses. The question is if and how will the girls be freed.
While writing is merely serviceable, and sometimes melodramatic, casting is significant in this film. Claire Danes gives a solid performance as the emotive Alice. While more subdued, the British Beckinsale convinces as a mild American. Bill Pullman, likewise, acts credibly, diverting from his action roles in INDEPENDENCE DAY and this summer’s LAKE PLACID.
While RETURN TO PARADISE dove deeply into all the parameters surrounding justice overseas, BROKEDOWN PALACE merely covers these topics with a junior high treatment, and even includes a women’s whose-who of pop music soundtrack. It is Lilith Fair in Asia. Furthermore, plot points fail. Attorney Hank Green’s trust in the corrupt prime minister to pardon the girls is a bit difficult to swallow, as is the visit of the girl’s school friends to Thailand to wave hello from across the courtyard. An antagonism yielding pranks and funny faces between Alice and another inmate seems very juvenile and unmotivated.
Nevertheless, the portrayal of the drug dealing business and the corrupt justice system in countries such as Thailand is powerfully accurate. The hedonistic nature of man is vividly depicted as innocent people are punished to allow others to indulge in their greed. Even so, it is difficult to root for the girls, after they have lied to their families and blindly trusted a stranger. The story does address some thought-provoking issues as honesty, trust and friendship, and their consequences when misused. While the importance and value of trust and honesty are explored in this movie, it falls short of the impact it could have with shallow writing and trivializing music and treatment.
Romantic worldview of teenage girls who become entangled in corrupt government due their idealizing a thief & brief false religious depictions; 12 obscenities & 8 profanities; brief violence of guards striking prisoners hands; implied fornication, seduction & some sexual talk; no nudity; alcohol use; smoking, marijuana smoking by women in prison & drug smuggling as thematic device; and, lying & corrupt justice.