You know how you sometimes get that Funny Feeling about the flick you're watching within the first few minutes of it? The Feeling that screams in your ear, "uh, we can leave now, right?" That Feeling tapped me on the shoulders right about the time I saw that this movie was rated PG-13 (which, given the subject matter, Said Something right away). It started screamin', big time, when visions of Dawson's Creek suddenly appeared before my eyes...
THE STORY (WARNING: **spoilers contained below**)
After graduating high school, two Hollywood cookie-cutter friends - Alice (Claire Danes), the Bad One; and Darlene (Kate Beckinsale), the Easily-Led One - decide to chuck their plans on going to Hawaii for their Last Hurrah, instead (and without their parents' knowledge) going to Thailand. There, they hook up with Nick Parks (Daniel Lapaine), a Rad Aussie Doode who rescues the damsels in distress after they get into a sticky wicket; on his invitation, they decide to fly with him to Hong Kong. Unfortunately for them, some Bad Stuff is found in their carry-on luggage; Wackiness Ensues, and they get to visit Thailand's free bed-n-board hotspot ("you can check in, but ya can't check out!"), you guessed it: the Brokedown Palace.
From the start, this movie was telegraphed; there were absolutely no surprises within. And worse than that, the whole premise in and of itself, struck me as just plain stoopid. Let's start with the whole setup: here's two young ladies, out to have fun before settling down, right? And, instead of going to Hawaii on their own, they pick - Thailand? Now, I'm sure that Thailand is a lovely place, but come on; at least you coulda come up with a better, more subtle, hook than that, guys! The "Just Say No To Drugs" neon light was flashing way too brightly in this one, right off the bat. The infamous Whifflebat Of Bad Storytelling, that is.
It also doesn't help that we are given very little backstory to work with; nothing much to grab onto to Feel these girls, except Alice's vocal flashbacks as told via cassette tape, and delivered onto Yankee Hank, a "sleazy barrister" living in Thailand, played unevenly by Bill Pullman (Independence Day). Lou Diamond Phillips (La Bamba), as a surprisingly uncaring - and equally unconvincing - U.S. Embassy official, Jacqueline Kim (Volcano), as Hank's lawyer-wife Yon Green (in a much more sympathetic role than that of her husband/partner), and Paul Walker (who's instrumental in one of the few bright spot scenes as Darlene's angry father, yelling across the Thai's version of a "visiting room" at Bad Alice), round out the main cast.
There was plenty for me to hate about this movie, and I don't think I missed a beat. The editing was bad, the storyline was worse, the ending painfully unbelievable - but of all the things I despised about it, what I hated most was the execution (if you could call it that) by the two lead actors themselves. I wasn't kidding when I said visions of Dawson's Creek appeared to me; from start to finish, I felt I was in WB (the non-Ghetto version) Land, with some MTV thrown in for good measure. It didn't help, of course, that the soundtrack was right out of MTV's playlist (that is, when they deign to actually play Music. But I digress). Bad enough that the premise of the story just didn't play with me; criminal that they'd try to pass off these two pampered princesses, as Prisoners In Hell. Ooh, there are big roaches in prison. Scary. The mallrats^H^H^H unjustly-held Uhmerkins, give their protest by as much stomping their feet and whining that it's Bad Manners to violate their God! Given! American! Rights!, gosh darn it!!! Their transformation into the big bad world of inmate life is weakly noted by a new haircut (that looks like it was maintained in a salon, a la Kevin Costner's inexplicably stylish perm in Dances With Wolves), and they survive time in The Hole with only slightly more muss and fuss (their makeup finally gets washed off, their hair is scruffy, and they break a nail or two). Oh yeah, we sure see that Prison Is Bad from this performance. This weakly-played version of prison life reminded me more of The Breakfast Club than of anything remotely approaching something to be feared and avoided at all costs.
THE "BLACK FACTOR"   [ObDisclaimer: We Are Not A Monolith]
Keeping Our non-monolithic state in mind, I saw precious little that would specifically appeal to a person of color, in this movie; nothing, certainly, that would convince most of Us to dig deep for the duckets. There was an ObJamaican that befriended the girls [after all, what's a drug movie without the ObJamaican included for good measure? And that, for those who missed it, was Sarcasm.] And by the way, was it Just Me, or did the ObJamaican and her friend, the ObBrit, have on street clothes in the next-to-last scene? Not that it mattered. They were just there as filler, anyway.
The other small bit of BF present was BF in reverse: Eddie Murphy once said, if Hollywood ever made a serious horror film starring Blacks, it'd be over in about two minutes - because when the Creature yelled "Get Out", We'd be gone before the last syllable. Well, the same principal applies here; I couldn't honestly see this kind of thing happening to your generic (yet, non-monolithic) Black kid. Mostly because that Ugly American/White Privilege thingy just don' work too well with Us.
BAMMER'S BOTTOM LINE
After everything I wrote above, need you ask?
Save your money; TV's Prisoner: CellBlock H was more believable than this tripe. Heck, Charlie's Angels did better Chicks Behind Bars segments than this brokedown movie.
If substantive "War On [Some] Drugs" types of flicks are your speed (uh, no pun intended), I suggest the following film instead:
This 1978 film, starring Brad Davis as Billy Hayes, in a similar (in subject matter only) situation - jailed in Turkey for possession of hash - runs circles around Brokedown's tepid attempt at examining the subject
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