6.9/10
12,112
128 user 68 critic

Return to Paradise (1998)

Two friends must choose whether to help a third friend who was arrested in Malaysia for drug possession.

Director:

Writers:

(motion picture Force Majeure), (motion picture Force Majeure) (as O. Schatzky) | 2 more credits »

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From $2.99 (SD) on Amazon Video

ON DISC
2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Kerrie
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Ravitch
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Ming Lee ...
Mr. Chandran
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Mr. Doramin
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Prosecutor
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Famous Divorce Lawyer (as James Michael McCauley)
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Young Woman in Limo (as Brettanya Friese)
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Woman in Bar
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Construction Foreman
Amy Wong ...
Ticket Agent (as Amy Wong)
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Storyline

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 R.P. Falvey

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

Give up three years of their lives or give up the life of their friend. They have eight days to decide.


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language, drug content, some sexuality and a scene of violence | See all certifications »

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Details

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Language:

Release Date:

14 August 1998 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Long Way to Paradise  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$2,465,129 (USA) (14 August 1998)

Gross:

$8,288,513 (USA) (25 September 1998)
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Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

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Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Per a February 1998 New York Post article ("Ellen Gal Pal Goes Straight for Co-star"), Vince Vaughn and Anne Heche shared passionate lovemaking sessions inside each others' trailers during breaks in filming. Movie sources said the chemistry between Vaughn and Heche was evident during shooting in exotic locales like Thailand and Macao. See more »

Goofs

Beth has an additional ring once they leave New York. See more »

Quotes

Sheriff: You'd take 3 years from me but you wouldn't take my word?
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Crazy Credits

In memory of DANNY ARNOLD See more »

Connections

References Casablanca (1942) See more »

Soundtracks

Beautiful Lady
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User Reviews

Paradise Found: A Lush, Intelligent Character-Driven Film
20 October 2004 | by (Massachusetts) – See all my reviews

This movie appeals on many levels... smartly written, with seductive cinematography, strong editing and acting throughout (with forays into brilliant). And, yes, the romantic sub-plot and un-"Hollywood" style ending DO make sense! Read on ...

(NO SPOILERS…)

Return to Paradise, a beautifully written, crafted and acted film is one of the few DVDs in my collection that I just keep coming back to.

The prologue in Malaysia begins during the credits and is worth the watch in itself. It grabs our interest, and establishes the dynamic between these three young men, who are off for a post-college fling before assuming their "real" lives. The music, hand-held camera effects, and MTV-style editing evoke the carelessness of youth, of a young man's idea of "Paradise".

Tony (played by David Conrad) is an opaque, friendly, architect/engineer who is Everyman in his pursuit of honor within the bounds of a satisfying, conventional life. Louis (Joachim Phoenix) – a gentle soul - whose plan is to stay in Southeast Asia and pursue Animal Rights ... and "Sheriff", played by Vince Vaughn - a tough, straight talking hustler from Brooklyn. It is Sheriff's journey that we stay with as the action moves over to America, then back to 'Paradise'.

We discover, along with the characters, what has happened to the friends since their idyll on Penang. When we rejoin Sheriff, it is a few years later. He is driving a limo, and living in a seedy NYC apartment, filled with books. He is on a path that stumbles as he irreverently, but wistfully, reaches for inner growth. We know enough about movies to know that SOMEthing interesting is about to happen to this good-looking guy. By the time the story wraps up, the character of Sheriff will have achieved an impressive depth of self-awareness, subtlety and tenderness that is a credit to the delicacy of Vaughn's acting in this piece.

Louis and, in his stead, Beth (Anne Heche), believe that greater things lie inside of Sheriff. In the prologue, Sheriff, brash and careless, teeters when Louis asks him (with confidence in Sheriff's core of selflessness) to join a fight to save the orangutan. Much later, faced with a corresponding request from the compelling and volubly erotic character that Heche creates, Sheriff uses his affair with Beth as a catalyst to reach for the nobility in his soul.

Things do not turn out as we (or they) expect. Character relationships reshuffle a bit near the end, but rather than being devices to surprise and tweak our emotions, these twists and turns of the plot help ensure that Sheriff's decisions are (as he tells his friend in a poignant jail cell meeting ) his own. Like Tony, Sheriff ultimately makes his choices, not on behalf of his friends ... but for himself.

The best thing about Return to Paradise is that there are no bad guys. A life 'hangs in the balance', but the competing forces are, as in the real world, created by the myriad of individuals all acting out their own interests with no real malice, yet perhaps without the purposeful empathy represented by the Louis character. We are absorbed by the compelling interplay between Beth, Sheriff, Tony, the Malaysian officials and MJ Major (the aggressive reporter played by Jada Pinkett-Smith in an acerbic, pivotal, cameo) all the way through to the final, cathartic, conclusion.

Don't miss this one.


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