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Return To Paradise  

'Return to Paradise' bombed at the box-office. This was mainly due to two things: an unfair slating by critics and a much publicised incident involving Polygram meddling with the movie as it was being shot. I don't know exactly why the film was fiddled with or what was altered in the plotline or script, but what I can say is that the end result isn't too bad.

The plot revolves around three backpackers in Malaysia who find themselves stuck in a tricky moral dilemma. The trio spend most of their time in paradise sharing women, booze and, uh-oh, hashish. Unbeknownst to these doped up slackers, the legal system in Malaysia has an extremely harsh anti-drugs law which results in the culprit being sentenced to death. Surely enough, when the holiday comes to an end the three, after much discussing about their future and prospects, decide to go their seperate ways. Lewis (Joaquin Phoenix) decides to stay behind and occupy himself with saving orangutans but only days after his two chums have departed he is busted by the police for posession of drugs - hashish which he foolishly left lying about. Fast forward two years and we have Beth (Anne Heche), Lewis' lawyer, approaching the pair who are now earning a crust in New York. Her proposition is this: Lewis is to be put to death in 8 days, and the only way the charges can be altered is if the two friends fly back to Malaysia and own up to the crime. If they do, they will both spend three years in prison.

It is around this difficult situation that the plot is built and, because such a film depends on its cast, had it not been for the superb acting, the end product could have been quite dull. Thankfully we have the excellent Heche, Phoenix and Vince Vaughn (as Sheriff - it is only he who opts to return and help his friend) who made 'Return to Paradise' much better viewing than I had anticipated. As for Jada Pinkett, (Who got sliced + diced in the pre-title sequence of Scream 2) she succeeds in being excessivley irritating and annoying, and thus fulfills the requirements of her role perfectly - as selfish, backstabbing newspaper reporter M.J. Director Joseph Reubens, whose past efforts have been a curious mix of Horror (The Stepfather), Thriller (Sleeping With The Enemy) and Action (Money Train) does a none too special job with something I'm guessing he had trouble getting to grips with (Thanks to Polygram).

In conclusion I have to say that 'Return To Paradise' makes for great viewing mainly because it challenges the morals of the viewer - would you help a friend by sacrificing three years of your life? Decide after the excrutiating final minutes, it won't be easy.

Simon@HAM Movies

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