Return to Paradise (1998)
Average Rating: 6.6/10
Reviews Counted: 45
Fresh: 32 | Rotten: 13
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Average Rating: 6.5/10
Critic Reviews: 13
Fresh: 9 | Rotten: 4
No consensus yet.
Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 8,010
This remake of Force Majeure (aka Uncontrollable Circumstances), a 1989 film with Alan Bates and Kristin Scott Thomas, recalls the prison plight depicted in Midnight Express (1978). Rambling around Asia, getting high and just having a good time, are three young men -- Sheriff (Vince Vaughn), Lewis (Joaquin Phoenix), and Tony (David Conrad). Sheriff and Tony say goodbye to Lewis, a conscientious Greenpeace activist and nature-lover who stays on to rescue endangered Borneo orangutans. Two years
Aug 14, 1998 Wide
Jan 11, 2000
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It's a painful prospect, to be sure, and Sheriff, in particular, insists he's no hero, but the next hour or so of handwringing conjures little suspense.
What if director Joseph Ruben didn't resort to B-movie suspense tricks? What if the fine cast wasn't saddled with a shamelessly contrived script by Wesley Strick and Bruce Robinson?
If it's to be experienced at all, Return to Paradise is best seen as a lively piece of pulp, not a profound exploration of the vagaries of the human soul.
This is a major example of a good idea, one that could have worked, being submitted to a Hollywood tag-team makeover.
Like Sheriff and Tony, we're pulled both ways by the story: We want them to go back and save Lewis, but we're not exactly sure we'd do the same. That's the Prisoner's Dilemma in a nutshell.
Though the clock ticks relentlessly enough to sustain the story's tension, the film finally seems to be a character study in search of a gripping plot.
Despite solid performances from the leads, it comes shrouded in a heavy cloud of ethics-class complications that makes it feel like a "dilemma of the week" TV movie.
The acting is generally good -- Vaughn is very convincing as a man forced to make a difficult decision, while Joaquin Phoenix even more convincingly plays a man condemned to die.
Return to Paradise is precisely the kind of film I tend to like; one which could go many ways, and one which, if done right, could have a true and profound moral. And it didn't dissapoint.
Fine, low-key performances by Ann Heche as the attorney and Vince Vaughn and David Conrad as the two men she must persuade help sustain our interest in the characters. But after the wrong turn, the story feels as forced as it once was exciting.
Truly Unforgettable. A tour-de-force for Phoenix.
The whole thing is quite thought provoking, and it's well written even though there are some flaws in the script.
Vaughn labors mightily under the obviousness of the script, while managing to reveal a fragile but profound fear of being an aging frat boy who longs to realize a finer, better self, only to be petrified that quality isn't within him.
What one ambitious person does in New York City affects the deliberations of a judge in Malaysia.
A quiet, thoughtful movie about hard moral choices, truth, love, accountability, crime, punishment and friendship.
Granted, Vaughn's character arc is a wonder to behold, but I can't help but think that these characters just aren't the sort of guys anyone's really going to give a damn about.
Phoenix, who was memorable in To Die For, is unearthly here as a man reduced to a wraith by miserable prison conditions and hopelessness. As an actor, he seems to have abandoned his body entirely in order to communicate only through his spirit.
Return to Paradise isn't a bad film. It's just one that doesn't live up to its potential.
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