Return to Paradise

Return to Paradise


Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

WARNING: when on holiday abroad, respect the customs of the country. Otherwise, like Lewis (Joaquin Phoenix), "a long-haired tree hugger", who cares more about endangered species than a proper job, you may find yourself in jail under sentence of death.

Lewis met up with a couple of New Yorkers, Sheriff (Vince Vaughan) from Brooklyn and Tony (David Conrad) from Harvard, and they had a great few weeks on a "rum, girls and cheap hash" binge in Malaysia. Sheriff called it "God's own bathtub" and thought of staying, but didn't. Only Lewis stayed, because he was off to an orangutan hospital in a few days. The local cops dropped by and found Lewis' dope, as well as the big block Sheriff dumped in the trash.

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Two years later, Lewis's estate hire a lawyer, Beth Easton (Anne Heche), to find Sheriff and Tony and persuade them to go back to Penang to serve three to six years for their part in the drugs bust, otherwise Lewis hangs. The film concerns itself with this argument, whether to give up everything - fiancee, job, prospects, safety - for the sake of a guy they didn't know that well.

It is tightly written (Wesley Strick and Bruce Robinson) and directed (Joseph Ruben), with strong performances all round. Heche, for instance, has never been better. The plot assumes a predictability that is not followed to the letter - there are twists - and the argument - will they, won't they? - goes on too long. They make the point that the media can be more harmful than helpful in a case like this and use a pushy journalist (Jada Pinkett Smith), with the charm of a rattlesnake, to illustrate it. The press can be insensitive and ruthless, it's true, but even a junior reporter knows that you don't get a story by threatening your subject. You get it with guile.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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After an old acquaintance is sentenced to death in Malaysia for drug possession, two people face a moral dilemma.
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Director: Joseph Ruben

Writer: Wesley Strick, Bruce Robinson

Starring: Vince Vaughan, Anne Heche, Yoaquin Phoenix, David Conrad, Vera Farmiga, Nick Sandow, Jada Pinkett Smith, Ming Lee, Joel de la Fuente

Year: 1998

Runtime: 111 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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