Brokedown Palace Movie Review
To celebrate high school graduation, Alice Mareno (Claire Daines) and Darlene Davis (Kate Beckinsale) plan an eleven day sojourn to Bangkok. ("Las Vegas without parents and laws," Alice proclaims to the more cautious Arlene) After a few days of fun in the sun, the two get a little more than they bargained for after they meet the seductive and alluring Nick Parks (Daniel Lapaine) who invites them on a weekend excursion to Hong Kong. In their rush to get to the airport, they fail to realize that Nick has planted over a kilo of heroin in Darlene's backpack. They both are arrested in the airport and once in prison, Darlene is tricked into signing a confession. They are each convicted of drug trafficking and given 33 years apiece in a hideous prison ruefully described by it's inmates as "The Brokedown Palace." Desperate for help and down to their last hope, the girls turn to "Yankee Hank" (Bill Pullman) a maverick American lawyer who takes up the daunting challenge of defending them. Together the three attempt to salvage their lives and their freedom against the tyrannical Thai government and outlandish justice system.
Kaplan's signature of strong lead female roles is carried over with his casting of Claire Daines (Romeo + Juliet), who turns in a satisfactory performance as a naive yet cocky American teenager in great despair. However, Kate Beckinsale's character (Last Days of Disco, Cold Comfort Farm) negates much of Daine's charisma with an overly bland demeanor and too many slips exposing her British accent. Bill Pullman (Independence Day, Zero Effect) effectively puts on an apathetic lawyer with a big heart. There's something about that scratchy voice that is very convincing to this critic.
The story manages to stay intriguing and the movie has a nice pace. Good cinematography makes up for some of the mushy female bonding as the two friends are caught up in a maelstrom of hysteria, panic, and confusion. Some excellent tracking shots of both girls at vulnerable points combined with scenery of Thailand, and symbolism of overarching themes should garner directory of photography Newton Thomas Sigel (The Usual Suspects, Into the West, Apt Pupil) much acclaim. David Newman also put together an excellent soundtrack that adds emotion to the chilling scenarios. All in all, I found the film entertaining and enjoyable despite its dark motif. I recommend it for a night of serious movie watching after which, you'll be inclined to think for yourself whether or not you would make the same sacrifices if you were put in a similar situation. God forbid!