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Brokedown Palace

List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Aaron Beierle | posted February 15, 2000 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

In Short: Maybe worth a rental.

"Brokedown Palace" is a film that sat on the shelf for around a year, only to recieve a short release late last fall. Not helped by star Clare Daines's unkind comments about the location in an article, the movie quickly exited theaters. Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale (who reportedly didn't like each other) play Alice and Darlene, two American girls who secretly change their plans for their last vacation before college from Hawaii to Thailand. A few moments into their trip they sneak into a luxury hotel and are nearly busted when a young man comes by and takes care of everything. Soon, he wants the girls to join him on a trip to Hong Kong. What they don't realize (until they get to customs, that is) is that drugs have been hidden in their luggage. The girls are arrested and sentenced to 33 years in prison. They find an American layer, played by Bill Pullman, to fight their case.

Shortly before this film was released, there was a drama called "Return To Paradise" about a young man who was busted for drugs - the two friends that were with him are presented with a deal - if one comes back, they'll get 6 years. If both come back, they get three. The film had a full cast of performances that I considered Oscar-worthy and a script that was not only smart in presenting concepts and issues, but had extremely well-written characters that we could feel for. I'll admit, I cried often during that movie.

I could generally feel bad for the girls once they got into prison, but not about how they got there - to follow a stranger like they did is an incredible bit of stupidity. Our feelings about the characters improve little throughout the picture and although Danes and Beckinsale are fine actors, they don't take the material very far. Danes actually isn't bad in her role, but a few more forgettable flops like this one (and especially "The Mod Squad") aren't terribly helpful for her career. The drama of a few scenes that could function as key parts of the film feel phony, and the movie as a whole feels flat. I knew I was in trouble when I'd felt like I'd watched an entire movie, and found that I was only 40 minutes in.

It's a film with nothing new to say and although there are a few positive aspects (cinematography from the great Newton Thomas Siegel("The Usual Suspects"), the movie itself isn't worth watching.

The DVD

VIDEO:
Thankfully Fox has just announced that they will support anamorphic for future releases - but that didn't include this release, which still boasts one of their better, if not one of their best - non-anamorphic transfers. The scenery is at times breathtaking in this film, and the DVD captures it well, with images that are wonderfully sharp and reveal good detail. Colors are marvelous, with deep, rich colors that are well-saturated with no problems. Black level is very strong and flesh tones are consistently natural and accurate. All in all, a very nice presentation of Newton Thomas Siegel's great cinematography.

There really isn't that much in the way of flaws - a trace amount of shimmer once or twice - other than that, there is no pixelation and the print used is clear and free of flaws. All in all, an enjoyable effort from Fox.

SOUND: An enjoyable movie in terms of audio, but nothing that's going to impress. Enjoyable score by David Newman sounds crystal clear and manages to be nicely enveloping. Surrounds are not used very often, and large parts of the movie are simply dialogue-driven. Dialogue is clear and natural, with no problems.

MENUS:: A wonderful job on the menus by Fox, which have a clip from the movie leading into an animated menu. There is also animation when a choice is made.

EXTRAS: The "not-so-special" features include the trailer and bios. Not much for $34.95, if you ask me.




Final Thoughts Not much to recommend for Fox's $34.95 price tag.

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