Urban Cinefile
"I think that great cinema is national cinema...that reflects its originating country. And I want to make cinema about Australia."  -Geoff Burton, cinematographer
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Sunday September 22, 2019 

Printable page PRINTABLE PAGE



High school buddies Alice (Claire Danes) and Darlene (Kate Beckinsale) set off for a holiday adventure in Thailand, full of youthful exuberance and the nave innocence of middle class America. In a joyride escapade at a five star Bangkok hotel swimming pool, they meet a handsome young Australian, Nick (Daniel Lapaine) who charms his way into their confidence - and into one of their beds. His offer of a few days in Hong Kong with him (while he is there on business) seems too good to refuse. But at Bangkok airport, the girls are arrested for drug trafficking and their adventure turns into the ordeal of their lives. From prison, they contact expat American lawyer, Hank Greene (Bill Pullman) who may or may not be of much use, but given a fat fee, he and his Thai wife (Jacqueline Kim) can try; Bangkok is not middle America.

"A combination of girl buddy pic and false imprisonment drama, Brokedown Palace is full of good intentions, good performances and good cinematography, but is ultimately too drawn out to be effectively gripping. All the same, with its moving and emotionally satisfying resolution (albeit rather schmaltzily handled), the film is value for money, especially for young adults. There is a sketchiness to the important background characters that weakens the film and the storytelling structure is wobbly as it meanders from the message on a tape to the 'live action' now. The striking plot similarities to Bangkok Hilton may unsettle some, although it has to be recognised that writer Adam Field's motivation comes from his own travels in Thailand, seeing posters encouraging tourists to visit imprisoned American youth (rightly or wrongly). The subject is obviously full of emotional powderkegs, and this film only detonates some of them, spending too much time in the early establishment process that looks like a travelogue. This time could have been better spent getting to know the main players around the two lead girls."
Andrew L. Urban

"Rich in emotions, Brokedown Palace is a rewarding story about dreams, freedom and friendship. The story may not be new and you may be reminded of Bangkok Hilton with its theme and ironic title, but it doesn't seem to matter. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, they say. But of course, there's much to fix and everything is broke in this 'palace of dispersed dreams'. This well realised and visual film grabs our attention as it takes us deeper and deeper into the maze of life. Set on the ornate and exotic backdrop that is Thailand, the film's structure in part works against it, and although the emotional payoff is guaranteed, the second half feels much longer than it actually is. I felt as though I had been through the Thai prison system; I probably would choose Hawaii as my holiday destination. Full of imagery and contrasts, Kaplan effectively juxtapositions beauty with ugliness in character, setting and music. David Newman's score is haunting from the beautifully melodic to tense ridden passages and an effective collage of contempo tunes. We get a feel for Thai formalities, cultures and drug laws, and glimpse the desperation of the local prison and its culture. We explore the strengths of friendship, the weight of conscience, the burden of duty. And freedom, after all, is but a state of mind. Top performances all round with Clare Danes the brightest shining star, heart on sleeve and emotions flowing generously. Danes is well matched with Kate Beckinsale, while Jacqueline Kim, Bill Pullman and Lou Diamond Phillips add their own touches. Remember Daniel Lapaine, the handsome Aussie swimmer who married Muriel in Muriel's Wedding? He is effective here in a small but pivotal role as another conscience free vagabond who makes use of the innocent for his own gain. Poignant, moving and entertaining, Brokedown Palace is a satisfying journey one that explores back doors and isn't necessarily about being right."
Louise Keller

Email this article

Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 1


CAST: Clare Danes, Kate Beckinsale, Bill Pullman, Jacqueline Kim, Lou Diamond Phillips, Daniel LaPaine, Tom Amandes, Aimee Graham

DIRECTOR: Jonathan Kaplan

PRODUCER: Adam Fields

SCRIPT: David Arata (Story by Adam Fields & David Arata)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Newton Thomas Sigel

EDITOR: Curtiss Clayton

MUSIC: David Newman


RUNNING TIME: 82 minutes



VIDEO RELEASE: Apri 19, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Fox Home Entertainment

Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2019