Suspenseful thriller breaks stereotypical plot

Kyle Moss

Most people agree that predictable movies aren’t very fun to watch. You know what is going to happen next, and you know that in the end everyone is going to live happily ever after.

Regardless of how great special effects are, the illusion created is shattered when the good guy escapes from an explosion and gets home safely.

“Brokedown Palace” is cool because the ending leaves you saying, “I suppose that is what would really happen if I was in that situation.”

When Alice (Claire Danes) and her best friend for life, Darlene (Kate Beckinsale), graduate from high school, they want to take one last trip together before parting for college.

At the last minute, the two friends decide to go to Thailand instead of Hawaii because Alice found out that Thailand means freedom, which is what the two of them really want.

After telling their parents they are still going to Hawaii, the free-spirited Alice and the more conservative Darlene hop a plane to Bangkok. When they get there, they check into a crappy hotel due to lack of money.

They begin their tourist walks around the city, hoping for a day of fun. When their fun starts wearing thin due to heat exhaustion, Alice suggests they sneak into an elegant hotel and go swimming.

While at the pool, the girls order drinks and food and Alice decides to charge it to random room 414. After four drinks and a plate full of food, the hotel attendant approaches them, asks what room they are in again, then points to the man who really is staying in 414.

The girls find themselves in a jam, arguing with the attendant and digging themselves farther into a lie. Then, an Australian man walks out of nowhere, claims that the girls are staying in his room and pays for their drinks (it turns out that the Australian wasn’t a guest of the hotel either; he had stolen someone’s room key).

Alice and Darlene, both attracted to the Australian who calls himself Nick Parks, want to repay him for his kindness. They take him out for a night on the town and both instantly fall for him.

Later that night, Alice finds Darlene and Nick kissing and storms out of the room. When Darlene chases her, Alice attempts to convince Darlene that she should go for him.

The next morning when Darlene returns from a night of passion with Nick, she asks Alice if she will go to Hong Kong with her and Nick for the weekend. Alice hesitates at first but finally agrees.

That same day, Alice encounters Nick in the town market, and he attempts to seduce her.

The movie quickly shifts to the next scene, leaving you wondering what happened between the two of them.

The morning the three are supposed to leave for Hong Kong, the two girls are both rushing to get packed. When they hurry downstairs and load their things into a cab, the attendant who loads the luggage looks suspicious.

As they wait in line at the airport, Alice and Darlene are suddenly surrounded by Thai police and DEA officers. Their bag is confiscated and emptied onto a table, revealing a couple kilos of heroin. No one knows what’s going on.

It was Alice’s bag, but it was packed by Darlene. The two fight accusations, struggling to preserve their friendship, which has been slightly deteriorated due to competition for Nick’s affection.

After coming to the conclusion that Nick is responsible for the heroin, the girls tell their story. And of course, someone by the name of Nick Parks is nowhere to be found.

The Thai police print out what is supposed to be Alice and Darlene’s statement, but the papers are printed in Thai, so Alice refuses to sign. Darlene is not quite as presumptuous and signs what turns out to be a false confession.

The girls are thrown in a female Thai prison, which longtime inmates refer to as the “Brokedown Palace.”

In the girls’ first year in the prison, their mutual implications continue to heighten as their solid-as-oak friendship begins to break apart.

They hear of an American lawyer named “Yankee” Hank Green (Bill Pullman) who operates in Thailand. When Alice contacts him, he decides to help them for the small fee of $30,000.

“Brokedown Palace” is filled with intensely dramatic scenes. When Darlene’s father visits the girls in prison, he tells Alice that he has never liked her, and he blames her for everything.

Danes shows some acting prowess you didn’t see in “My So-Called Life” or “Romeo and Juliet.”

The girls get in an argument when Alice and Nick’s meeting in the market is discussed.

A sure-thing court appearance goes sour when the attendant from the nice hotel comes in and says the girls are liars and thieves.

An last-minute attempted escape doubles their sentence, and any chance of getting out begins to look slim.

One of the great things about “Brokedown Palace” is that it explores how a horrible situation can cause a people to start doubting everything in their lives, including those closest to them.

The movie, more specifically the ending, shows a wonderful example of what a true friendship really is and some of the drastic things a great friend would do to make another’s life better.

The unpredicted tear-jerking conclusion is one of the best I’ve seen in movies of late.

Some slight underdevelopment of characters, including Pullman’s well-acted and lovable character, is the only thing worth criticizing.

Danes and Beckinsale work well together and individually. They are two actresses who should be seen more often.

The girls went to Thailand for freedom, but ended up trapped after visiting the most unlikely of places — the “Brokedown Palace.”

4 stars

Ratings based on 5 star scale.

Kyle Moss is a sophomore in journalism and mass communication from Urbandale.