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Brokedown Palace - guilty of good content?
on July 24, 2001
The premise of 'Brokedown Palace' is one that instantly uneases its audience - incarcaration in a foreign jail. Although this issue has been depicted before, this is the first film of its kind to have two female leads as its main focus.
Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale star as two close friends who travel to Thailand in search of adventure, fun and most of all freedom. Along the way they fall for the same mysterious stranger and throw caution to the wind in competing for his affections. After a few days in his company the girls are invited on a trip to Hong Kong so that they can accompany him on a business trip. Trusting his seemingly honest motives, the girls agree and arrange to meet him out there once his work is completed. Once they arrive at the airport they are searched by Thai officials and are found with large quantities of narcotics. Arrested by an army of officers and escorted to a disgustingly dirty holding cell, they are left with nothing except each other, a few hundred cockroaches and a language barrier. It is here that the drama unfolds and the provocative nature of 'Brokedown Palace' emerges.
The main question raised by the film is of the girls innocence, but the interesting part is that it is never really answered. After fruitless attempts of trying to clear their names ( with the help of expatriate lawyer Bill Pullman ) self - sacrifice becomes the last resort. Here is the films strength - usually tales like this have a black or white ending, but 'Brokedown Palace' delivers a thought-provoking finale that is highly original in it's field.
The only criticisms that I would make about it relate more to location and post - production, than casting or performances. For a start the prison itself is far too tame to create sufficient tension for the audience. Alice ( Danes ) receives a beating from a guard that resembles more of a smack on the legs, and the scariest inmate seems to be a trouble-making adolescent. More time should have been shifted away from the focus of Pullman's character and placed on a much more valuable aspect of the film - the bond between the girls. Neither seem to be bothered by the 33-year prison sentence, nor the mandatory prison haircuts they are forced to have. Not the best idea when trying to capture the horrific conditions and prospects the characters both face.
Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale excell in their respective roles, as do most of the other actors. But over-editing of decent 'gritty' scenes in the prison create its downfall. Overall 'Brokedown Palace' is a good film with excellent performances by it's leading ladies, but unfortunately a rather lightweight and lacklustre final edit rob it of its potential.
The trailer for 'Brokedown Palace' is literally more scary than the actual film, but other factors such as the love-triangle that emerges, and the strained relationships that surface between the girls and their parents help make it a decent film with pockets of credibility.