Brokedown Palace is a 1999 American drama film directed by Jonathan Kaplan, and starring Claire Danes, Kate Beckinsale, Bill Pullman and Lim Kay Tong. It deals with two American friends imprisoned in Thailand for alleged drug smuggling. Its title is taken from a Grateful Dead song written by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter from their 1970 album American Beauty.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Jonathan Kaplan|
|Produced by||Adam Fields|
|Written by||David Arata
|Music by||David Newman|
|Cinematography||Newton Thomas Sigel|
|Edited by||Don Zimmerman|
|Distributed by||20th Century Fox|
Lifelong best friends Alice Marano and Darlene Davis take a trip after graduating from high school, giving their parents the impression that they're going to Hawaii. However, Alice talks Darlene into going to Thailand instead, after comparing the prices of both destinations. Darlene agrees, albeit with some reluctance. Once in Thailand, they meet a captivating Australian man who calls himself Nick Parks. Unknown to them, Nick Parks is a drug smuggler. Darlene is particularly smitten with Nick and convinces Alice to take Nick up on his offer to treat the two of them to what amounts to a day trip to Hong Kong. While boarding their flight at Don Mueang International Airport, the girls are seized by the police and shocked to discover that one of their bags contains heroin, which unknown to them, is planted by Nick himself.
The two girls are interrogated by the Thai police and Darlene signs a confession written in Thai, which she foolishly thinks is her verbatim statement. At their trial, they beg for mercy and are given a lenient 33-year sentence instead of the usual life sentence in prison. In prison, the girls are advised to seek out Henry Greene, aka "Yankee Hank", an expatriate American attorney living in Thailand.
As the girls try to deal with the violence and squalor of prison, Hank begins work on their case. He tracks down another girl who had been used as an unwitting drug mule by Nick Parks, but is warned that the smuggler has friends in high places. Hank arranges a deal with a corrupt prosecutor whereby the girls will receive a clemency if they confess to having lied about Parks' involvement. However, the prosecutor double crosses them on the deal after the girls confess. Desperate, and realizing that Darlene will not survive their time in prison, Alice begs the King of Thailand to allow her to serve both of their sentences in exchange for letting Darlene go. The deal is accepted and Darlene is released, where she promises to continue working with Henry to try and free Alice.
- Claire Danes as Alice Marano
- Kate Beckinsale as Darlene Davis
- Bill Pullman as Henry Greene
- Lou Diamond Phillips as Roy Knox
- Jacqueline Kim as Yon Greene
- Daniel Lapaine as Nick Parks
- Tom Amandes as Doug Davis
- Aimee Graham as Beth Ann Gardener
- John Doe as Bill Marano
- Lim Kay Tong as Chief Detective Jagkrit
- Paul Walker as Jason
Because the film presents a critical view of the Thai legal system, most of the scenes were filmed in the Philippines; however, some panoramas and views were filmed in Bangkok. Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 stood in for Don Mueang International Airport and during the airport arrest scene, a Philippine Airlines Boeing 747-400 is seen. The prison scenes were shot at the Manila City Jail.
Brokedown Palace received negative reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes rated the film "Rotten", with only 31% of 35 critics giving positive reviews, summarizing that the movie "lacks credibility and tension". Roger Ebert however gave the film three out of four stars, saying "The heart of the film is in the performances of Danes and Beckinsale".
The film underperformed at the box office, failing to make back even half of its $25 million budget.