Brokedown Palace review

Innocents abroad, framed for/duped into drug smuggling, at the mercy of a draconian foreign justice system. Vaguely familiar story? Perhaps you're thinking of Midnight Express, last summer's Return To Paradise or even Bangkok Hilton, the 1989 mini-series starring Nicole Kidman. This latest version of the same narrative uses similar circumstances to examine the friendship between two girls.

Before they travel to Thailand, Alice is established as the town's bad girl while Darlene is seen to be her father's pride and joy, a future college student with good prospects. In prison the characters are defined by Darlene whining and Alice finding out how the system works, aided and abetted by lawyer Hank Greene. Their friendship is tested to the limit, with neither really knowing if the other is responsible for landing them in jail.

Although it's easy to see that the Americans are naïve in their behaviour (hanging about with dubious sorts, insulting officials and signing statements which aren't in English), what's harder to believe is the machinations of the justice system, and prison life itself.

What soon becomes clear is that prison (in this film) doesn't seem such a bad option for Alice, who was not going to college in the first place and therefore has (this story assumes) no prospects. They have three meals a day, do a bit of gardening and hang out with their mates, one of whom is the improbably cast Amanda De Cadenet.

The nearest the girls come to horror is when a cockroach crawls in Darlene's ear, but all she does is look a bit sweaty and fall over. Their prison haircuts are also bizarre. No other inmates have special haircuts, yet both girls sport fashionable bobs. That, combined with cheesy vocal music sweeping in whenever anything emotional happens makes any would-be gut-wrenching moments unintentionally funny.

A story which has been tackled several times before completely loses its impact, despite the efforts of the leading actresses. The soft rock soundtrack and lack of authenticity make this one for devoted fans of Danes or Beckinsale only.

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