Return to Paradise (1998)
Directed by Joseph Ruben
Written by Wesley Strick ad Bruce Robinson
Starring: Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche, Joaquin Phoenix, David Conrad, Vera Farmiga
After a wild and drug-fueled vacation in Malaysia three friends part ways. Two of the three, Sheriff (Vaughn) and Tony (Conrad), are headed back to New York. Lewis (Phoenix), on the other hand, has decided to head off to Borneo to save orangutans. Two years later, Sheriff and Tony are confronted by Beth (Heche), an attorney looking for their help. In the wake of their departure from Malaysia, Lewis was arrested for drug possession. After two years of imprisonment, Lewis is scheduled to be executed unless Tony and Sheriff are willing to go back and admit their involvement. Now Sheriff and Tony have to decide whether or not to face justice to save a friend. This means leaving behind the loved ones and careers they’ve moved onto. The clock is running as these two struggle to decide what to do.
This film is a remake of the French film Force majeure made in 1989. The story was adapted for this America version by Wesley Strick (Final Analysis) and Bruce Robinson (The Killing Fields). Joseph Ruben (Sleeping with the Enemy) was selected to direct the film. The cast features a number of great actors including Joaquin Phoenix (Gladiator), Vince Vaughn (Wedding Crashers), and Anne Heche (Donnie Brasco). David Conrad (Men of Honor) and Vera Farmiga (The Departed) also star in this film.
This movie is a powerful story about accountability and sacrifice. The story defines the characters nicely, and builds the relationships in ways that really add emotion. The writers also did a good job creating the two different worlds the story takes place in. Unfortunately, the story also seems to take some of the relationships in a direction that really distracts for the power of the events. The relationship between Vaughn and Heche, although important, seems to take up far too much of the story. Although the diversion is a problem, the story does have some powerful moments and still works overall.
The acting in this one is nicely done. It’s no surprise that Joaquin Phoenix does such a good job. His skills create the most powerful and dramatic moments of the story. The acting from Vaughn, Heche, Conrad, and Farmiga is also good. Overall, the cast really put together a movie filled with the level of tension and emotion it needed to succeed. With films like this, it’s surprising that Vaughn hasn’t found more serious roles.
This is a good movie from a visual standpoint as well. The filmmakers had great locations to work with and took advantage of the contrasting worlds being portrayed. In addition, the score really accentuates the emotional beats of the movie without being a distraction.
This is a nicely made movie that falls victim to a need to go outside the important parts of the story. Despite the flaws, this is one that fans of the stars should enjoy. I would also suggest this to fans of films like Brokedown Palace. This is a gritty movie with hard moments throughout it. If you like strong emotions and darker stories this is one you should see. I give this one 3.6 out of 5 stars.