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Brokedown Palace

Starring Claire Danes, Kate Beckinsale, Lou Diamond Phillips, Jacqueline Kim and Bill Pullman
Screenplay by David Arata
From a story by Adam Fields & David Arata
Directed by Jonathan Kaplan

IN SHORT: More Americans in Hell. [Rated [PG-13], 100 minutes]

Sure, stories of innocent Americans wrongfully busted and languishing in the hellish conditions of foreign jails have been done before . . . but we don't compare to 'em. Probe your video store owner's memory 'cuz Cranky can only think of two, offhand.

Brokedown Palace is the story of two bestest of friends who sneak off to Thailand (their parents think they're in Hawaii) as a post-high school graduation jaunt. Why Thailand? Well, it's a particularly teenage bit of reasoning that leads 'em to this destination, and an amusing couple of seconds of film which I won't spill. It's one of the lighter moments in David Arata's screenplay, which tries to stress the bonds of friendship between Alice (Claire Danes) and Darlene (Kate Beckinsale). It doesn't work well, which explains some of the audience reaction reported below.

Most of the front half of Palace is narrated by Danes via a cassette tape she's managed to send to "Yankee Hank" Greene (Bill Pullman), an American lawyer partnered legally and matrimonially with a Thai local named Yon (Jacqueline Kim). Hank ain't no white collared, built on principle, legal eagle. He's not above shmoozing the local Drug Enforcement Agency liaison (Lou Diamond Phillips) for information or doing the investigative work the local police don't (or won't) do. But when the money is gone, so is Hank.

And money doesn't go very far in the Thai justice system.

What remains is a friends against all odds story, with all the twists that that would imply, and another twists and turns filled subplot which I won't spoil. Danes' character is more street savvy, Beckinsale's more naive and both actors do decent work. The problem, at least for me, is that the pair didn't click as true friends. They come off more as partying buddies, though that may be the generation of years gap between Cranky and these kidlets.

When the big dramatic climax came, the woman to my right was sniffling mightily. Those in front of me were cackling like hyenas and many walked out calling Brokedown Palace "ridiculous." Those were the women, who should be more sympathetic. Geez, I'm the one who's supposed to be cranky . . .

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Brokedown Palace, he would have paid...


Just below dateflick level.

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