Brokedown Palace (1999)

What do you get when you have a Roger Corman-bred director and a screenplay titled after a cut from the Grateful Dead’s 1970 album American Beauty?

A box-office bomb that failed at making back half of its $25 million budget.

The film killed Jonathan Kaplan’s feature film career and became his last feature film. That’s a hard fall from 1988, when Jodie Foster won her first Oscar courtesy of his directing work on The Accused, which elevated his B-Movie status to Hollywood’s A-List with such high profile films as Unlawful Entry and Love Field (both 1992). Of course, the B&S crowd remembers Kaplan for the Drive-In potboilers Night Call Nurses (1972), The Student Nurses (1973), Truck Turner (1975), and White Line Fever (1975), and the quintessential juvenile delinquency flick of the ’70s, Over the Edge (1979).

Screenwriter David Arata — who earned an Academy Award nod for “Best Adapted Screenplay” for Children of Men (2007) — penned the tale of two American girls (Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale) who decide to take a vacation to Hawaii after graduating high school. . . .

Then they make the mistake of changing their itinerary to Thailand because the prices to travel there are cheaper. . . .

Then they meet up with an Australian bad boy, natch, who offers to take them on a “free” day-trip to Hong Kong. . . .

Guess who just got duped into being drug mules?

I’m with Roger Ebert on this one, who gave it a “Thumbs Up” and three out of four stars. While it’s negativity toward the Thai justice system comes off a bit prejudice, Jonathan Kaplan crafted a quality film; he certainly didn’t deserve to be banished to the world of network television. And while a young Danes and Beckinsale deliver the goods, Bill Pullman and Lou Diamond Phillips are equally excellent. And there’s John Doe going toe-to-toe in the thespin’ arena, dependable and reliable on the screen, as always.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies and publishes on Medium.

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