Return to Paradise [1998]

If you told me twenty years ago that I would be rating 10 a movie starring Vince Vaughn, Ann Heche and Joaquim Phoenix, I would call you a liar. Vince was douchbaggy, Ann too bland and I didn’t even know who Joaquim was. Oh how times have changed. Finally I can fully appreciate their talents and skills and I guess you have to go through all these changes. Especially if you’re not really connected to the movie industry.

Based on a French movie Force Majeure, released back in 1989, this is one of those movies that reels you in with that word Paradise in the title, just to fuck you up with an excellent and engaging story. As I already mentioned, the acting was fucking phenomenal, bringing to life this fucked up story. A fucked up story that sounds too real to be fake. Director Joseph Ruben (The Forgotten, Money Train) created a remake worthy of the original. Return to Paradise is emotional but at no time it was sappy or pandering. Something that plagues so many movies with similar subjects.

Lewis, Sheriff and Tony are three friends who are enjoying their time in exotic Malaysia. Women, alcohol and drugs make things seem like paradise, but everything that’s that good, must come to an end. And it does, as Sheriff and Tony go back to United States to continue with their “regular” lives and Lewis making arrangements for his next destination: Borneo. Two years later and Malaysia seems like a dream they all had. Sheriff is working as a limo driver and Tony is now a successful architect. However, when a lawyer appears out of nowhere informing them that Lewis has been caught by Malaysian police and that he needs their help, everything will change.

Return to Paradise is all about moral choices and as the characters in this movie are pondering what to do, you are doing the same. Probing your brain with really difficult questions about what you would do in a similar situation. I love watching these movies with friends because you can discuss your choices and reasoning, making the movie and its story jump out of the screen and into your lives.

And just when you think you have made your decision, something will happen that will make you reconsider your initial choice. Especially with stakes this high. Comparisons with the baseline foreign prison movie Midnight Express are pretty much useless. Mostly because the movies are focusing on the different aspects of the whole ordeal. In the end, I don’t want to spoil your viewing pleasure too much, so just check out this phenomenal movie and be prepared for a fucked up drama and not some carefree trouble in paradise.

P.S. It would be fun to see the fusion of this movie and Hangover :)

Director: Joseph Ruben

Writers: Pierre Jolivet, Olivier Schatzky, Wesley Strick, Bruce Robinson

Cast: Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche, Joaquin Phoenix, David Conrad, Jada Pinkett Smith, Nick Sandow

Fun Facts: Film debut of Vera Farmiga.


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