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Three friends share an exciting vacation in Malaysia, full of fun, drinks, women and hash. When the vacation is over, each have dreams of continuing their lives, and they all go their separate ways. One of them (Phoenix) remains on the tropical paradise to fulfill a dream of working with apes for research. Two years later, a lawyer (Heche) comes to New York and hunts down the other two friends to give some sad news. A few days after they left the island, police raided their camp and found amazingly large quantities of hash left about. Phoenix was still residing there, so he had to take the blame. He is set to be put to death in 8 days, and the only way the charges can be decreased is if the two friends come back to paradise and take their share of the responsibilty. If they do, they both will spend three years in prison. If only one does, he will spend six years behind bars... Written by
Long opening series of street scenes, local "color", was obviously filmed in Buddhist Thailand, complete with saffron-robed monks and red-green-gold Thai temples - Malaysia (population has 30 % non-Muslim minorities) doesn't have go-go bars or obvious brothels unlike Thailand). See more »
You'd take 3 years from me but you wouldn't take my word?
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This film is about moral dilemma whether or not to give up three, or maybe six, years of life by accepting imprisonment in a Malaysian jail, or continue living in freedom knowing that a friend has died as a result. This point needs to be made up front it is not a film about the rights or wrongs of Asian judicial or penal systems, nor is it a film about the morality of drug taking.
So we follow the two characters, Sheriff (Vaughn) and Tony (Conrad) who have to make this decision as they go through the decision-making process, prodded in no uncertain manner by their friend's attorney Beth (Heche). This tortuous process is played out against the comparatively comfortable background of their home city, New York. And not only the comforts of home, but also of employment and marriage prospects.
The process is played out a little unevenly although given the nature of the decision perhaps this is not surprising. But where it is flawed is the sudden blossoming of romance between Sheriff and Beth. Prior to this there had been no indication of this turn of events, indeed, quite the opposite as the two had regularly fallen out and appeared to have a mutual dislike for each other. Thus there is a feeling of a contrived piece of plotting which, to make matters worse, goes on to form the basis of the end of the movie.
Whether or not this is an accurate portrayal of the Malaysian judicial and penal systems seems an irrelevance. On a rather pedantic point where was the US embassy (and State Department) to provide support? It simply is not the case that in circumstances such as these that the lead characters would have been left on their own. That's not to say that the outcome would have been any different but it may well have affected some of the decisions individuals took towards the end. It might also have been an opportunity to add a little more reality and edge to the story, especially if the officials took an approach that put US foreign relations above the interests of its own citizens!
This is a movie that makes us think and no movie that does that can be written off. And the acting, especially from Heche and Phoenix, is fine. But the plot flaws mean it's a good, rather than a great, film.
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