6.9/10
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130 user 67 critic

Return to Paradise (1998)

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

Director:

Joseph Ruben

Writers:

Pierre Jolivet (motion picture Force Majeure), Olivier Schatzky (motion picture Force Majeure) (as O. Schatzky) | 2 more credits »
2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Vince Vaughn ... John 'Sheriff' Volgecherev
Anne Heche ... Beth Eastern
Joaquin Phoenix ... Lewis McBride
David Conrad ... Tony Croft
Vera Farmiga ... Kerrie
Nick Sandow ... Ravitch
Jada Pinkett Smith ... M.J. Major
Ming Lee Ming Lee ... Mr. Chandran
Joel de la Fuente ... Mr. Doramin
Richard Chang ... Prosecutor
James McCauley ... Famous Divorce Lawyer (as James Michael McCauley)
Brette Taylor ... Young Woman in Limo (as Brettanya Friese)
Deanna Yusoff Deanna Yusoff ... Woman in Bar
David Zayas ... Construction Foreman
Amy Wong 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 »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

14 August 1998 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A Long Way to Paradise See more »

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Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$2,465,129, 16 August 1998, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$8,288,513, 27 September 1998
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »
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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

In the Thai scenes (including when she visits a character in prison), Beth displays an amount of skin it is questionable she would be allowed in a Muslim country as conservative as Thailand. See more »

Quotes

Sheriff: You'd take 3 years from me but you wouldn't take my word?
See more »

Crazy Credits

In memory of DANNY ARNOLD See more »

Connections

Referenced in Decker: Sonrise (2017) See more »

Soundtracks

Sonata In F Minor
Written by Domenico Scarletti
See more »

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User Reviews

One of the most underrated movies of the past decade
7 February 2003 | by burbank904416010See all my reviews

Return To Paradise is one of the best films you've never heard of. It was buried in the summer of 1998 to mostly positive reviews and was later unsuccessfully reinvented 9 months later here in the UK on the back of Psycho which also starred Vaughn and Heche. Its been unfairly treated by the now defunct Polygram as it is a quite incredible little drama with some superb performances and some moments of great power.

The premise is relatively simple. Three friends on holiday in Malaysia. Two leave. The police arrive and find hash where they were staying. The third is put in jail. Two years later a lawyer finds the two remaining men in New York and tells them that their friend was found guilty of trafficking. They must go back to share the punishment or he will die in 7 days.

Its a frightening dilemma and you can't help but ask yourself the same question. Would you go back? If one goes back they go to prison for 6 years. If both go they will have 3 years each. All of the arguments are put forward, making the answer not seem as clear as originally imagined.

The timeframe is made even tenser with titles reminding us of how many days are remaining. Vince Vaughn plays our hero who doesn't always act in the morally correct way we expect him to do. He doesn't immediately decide to go back, making us question if we would either. Vaughn gives the finest performance of his career as the not completely likeable 'Sheriff'. Anne Heche plays the increasingly desperate lawyer who will do anything to save her client from execution. And her desperation is made completely believable by Heche's multi-faceted performance.

And then Joaquin Phoenix plays the imprisoned Lewis who has little screen time but whenever he's on he totally captivates. His video message to his two friends is heartbreaking. There are numerous twists which serve to further the emotional capital which is placed in the conclusion.

And by the time the suspenseful court scene arrives, you will find yourself nervously hoping for a happy ending. Needless to say the film ends with a succession of unspeakably powerful scenes. Its hard to remember a film which I found as moving as this. It serves as a very poignant anti-drugs message. Its impact will stay with you for days, making it really quite unforgettable. Hunt this down. You will be richly rewarded.


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