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Return to Paradise

Movie with Vince Vaughn, Ann Heche, and Joaquin Phoenix

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A scary reminder of what can go wrong abroad....

  • Jun 13, 2008
  • by
This movie is in many ways similar to movies like Midnight Express and Brokedown Palace. The plot involves 3 Americans who spend their vacation living it up on beaches of Malaysia. Two of them leave, however, one stays in Malaysia and is caught with the group's drug stash and subsequently sentenced to death. The other 2 are faced with a gut wrenching ethical dilemma (different from the other 2 movies). Do they go back to Malaysia, serve 3 years each, and save the life of their friend? OR do they remain in the relative comfort of their lives in New York and let their friend die.

Such a dilemma shows rather simply that its better to avoid things like drugs overseas in the first place. However, this movie emphasizes that every action, no matter how far removed, has consequences.

This is the type of movie that forces you to think about what you would do in a similar situation. Would you risk your own life by putting yourself in a third world prison to save a friend and hold yourself accountable? Or would you let bygones be bygones and go on with your life? This movie is definitely food for thought.
Penang Prison, where the men are held Petronas Towers

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About the reviewer
Jaimie Ucuzoglu ()
Ranked #310
I am a recent USC grad. My degree is in business with an emphasis in management, however I have many interests beyond that. I especially love traveling (been to 20 countries so far and have a long list … more
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About this movie


Return to Paradise is a 1998 film directed by Joseph Ruben, written by Wesley Strick and Bruce Robinson and starring Anne Heche, Joaquin Phoenix and Vince Vaughn.


Return to Paradise is a remake of a French film released in 1989, Force majeure. Return to Paradise was released a year before Brokedown Palace and is noted for being similar, in that it also concerns a young American trapped in a Southeast Asian legal system, and difficult choices that must be made by that foreigner's traveling companions.


"Return to Paradise" begins with a silent montage of a fun holiday in a Malaysian paradise showing the three main male characters in the movie having a spectacular time. The opening scenes of the movie remain in Malaysia with a series of pulsating events providing the men with myriad hardships, including one such scene when the young men are almost run over by a car when riding a bicycle and another when they are pressured into buying some tonic drink from Malaysian locals. Eventually, the three men, Lewis McBride (Joaquin Phoenix), Sheriff (Vince Vaughn) and Tony (David Conrad) wind up at their beach front house on the ocean pondering their future in the island paradise. After some time, Tony and Sheriff decide to return to New York, while Lewis, being a "greeny", wishes to travel to Borneo to save endangered orangutans. As an ironic joke before leaving, Sheriff asks Lewis, "Why did we get so much hash anyway,?" which eventually proves...

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Movies, Films, Vince Vaughn, Joaquin Phoenix, Return To Paradise, Anne Heche


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