It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
"Brokedown Palace" tells the story of two American teenage girls who are sentenced to spend most of their lives in a Thai prison. Their crimes are apparently harmless: being silly and naive. Yet it is a fact that they had drugs in their possession when they passed through Thai customs on their way to Hong Kong, and that is a practice the Thai authorities do not find amusing.
The girls are Alice (Claire Danes) and Darlene (Kate Beckinsale). They're high school buddies who plan a graduation trip to Hawaii, and then secretly change their destination to the more exotic Thailand without telling their parents. Once there, they find a $6 guest house, and sneak into a luxury hotel to sip expensive drinks at poolside. They get caught trying to charge the bill to the wrong room, but they are saved from trouble by a friendly Australian, Nick (Daniel Lapaine), who takes care of the bill and makes smooth romantic moves, first toward Alice, then toward Darlene.
By now alarm bells are going off among moviegoers who have seen "Return To Paradise" (1998), not to mention "Midnight Express" (1978). A lot of foreign countries sentence drug traffickers to life, or death, and trusting Americans are sitting ducks for smooth-talking smugglers who take advantage of them.
"Return to Paradise" posed a fascinating moral dilemma, since three friends went to Malaysia but two were already safe back in the United States when the third was busted for possession of hashish. The deal: He'll get death, because of the amount in his possession. But if both friends return to share the blame, they'll all get three years. If one returns, he and the prisoner will get six years. If you're selfish but don't want your friend to die, obviously the best deal for you is if the other guy goes back, while you stay safe at home.