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Return to Paradise - Film Review

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by Mila Wood (subscribe)
I work in the Finance department of a media company, and someone who dabbles in writing of any genre.
Published May 6th 2013
A movie that will grip you from the beginning till the end
SPOILER ALERT: This review contains major spoilers

Return to Paradise tells the story of three friends, Lewis, played by Joaquin Phoenix, Vince Vaughn as Sheriff and Tony portrayed by David Conrad, who embarked on a holiday of a lifetime in a paradise island in Malaysia. Where they spent their time surrounded by women, consuming copious amount of alcohol and hash. When the holiday was over, Sheriff and Tony went back to New York but Lewis decided to stay, in the hope of pursuing his dreams helping to save the orangutangs in Burma.

Return to Paradise

Two years had passed and a Lawyer named Beth played by Anne Heche comes to New York in search for Sheriff, who works as a limousine driver and Tony, as an architect, to deliver the devastating news that a few days after Sheriff and Tony left, the Malaysian Police raided the camp where they stayed and found a large quantity of hashish. Lewis being the only one left was blamed. He was arrested, charged of drug trafficking and was sentenced to death by hanging, with the penalty to be enforce in the next 8 days. His sentence will only be lessen if both of them return to Malaysia and accept their part of responsibility.

Beth reassures them that if they return, they will be treated humanely, will not suffer or be harm in any way, each will serve 3 years in prison, but if only one of them return, it will be six years of jail time in a harsh environment.

In the midst of 8 agonising days waiting for Sheriff's and Tony's decision, and also being hounded by a journalist eager to write the story which would catapult her into stardom, Beth finds solace onto the arms of Sheriff. Finally, Sheriff and Tony both agreed to 'Return to Paradise' and face the consequences.

The Paradise

Upon their arrival, it is quite clear that Lewis had suffered psychologically but does not appear to have been tortured or harmed physically. But when Tony and Sheriff learn Beth is actually Lewis' sister, the trust is broken. Tony and Sheriff decide to return to New York, but at the last minute Sheriff opts to stay in the hope of helping Lewis evade the fate that he faces and throws himself into the mercy of the Malaysian Court.

With this act of bravery and sympathy towards his friend, the Judge's heart is softened until he discovers an article written on an American Newspaper, berating and questioning the Laws of his country. Hell hath no fury, he condemns Lewis to be hang the following day and sentence Sheriff to an indefinite time in jail.

Lewis and Sheriff are led to their cells. As morning comes, Lewis is dragged to the gallows, screaming, kicking and begging endlessly to spare his life, Sheriff calls out to assure him that he is in his heart and will be there the whole way through, that he can feel his sufferings and he's right behind him.

As the noose tightened around Lewis neck, gazing his eyes towards Sheriff, he takes his last breath. The look on his face is of acceptance and peace, knowing that he has not been abandoned.

Overwhelmed with emotion and the realisation of her love for Sheriff, Beth pays him a visit and tells him that the Malaysian Government advised the Attorney General that he will be released in six months. She promises that after taking her brother home, she will return and will not leave Malaysia unless they are together.

This movie is directed by Joseph Ruben, and led by the cast of Vince Vaughn played - John 'Sheriff' Volgecherev, Anne Heche as Beth, Joaquin Phoenix as Lewis, David Conrad as Tony Croft, not to forget to mention Jada Pinkett Smith as M.J. Major, the formidable journalist who virtually hounded Beth and may have been blamed for the cause of Lewis's death.

The actors and actresses are outstanding.

Every moment Joaquin Phoenix (Lewis) graced the screen, it touched the core of my soul. I felt his pain and his performance prompted me to text my children and tell them that I love them. The future of a young caring person with a beautiful heart, who only wishes to save another life and enjoy the company of his friends in paradise made a mistake and paid it with his life.

Vince Vaughn as "Sheriff" did an amazing job portraying a person who doesn't have any care in the world. Commitment is not part of his vocabulary but in the end, passion got the better of him, hence it made me realise that adversities can be conquered and learned that humanity is worth fighting for.

The beautiful Beth played by Anne Heche proved that beauty and brains goes well together. Not only an actress of greatness but she instilled in her acting that she will do anything to save her baby brother.

And for the rest of the cast, I take my hats off for such magnificent performances.

I could not put into words the effect of this movie. From the beginning till the end, I was glued to the screen. It has brought the grim reality of the punishment that one may face when such crime had been committed and the stance of other countries have when it comes to drugs and other offences that we may deem appropriate but warrant a court proceeding. Unfortunately, some do not adhere to these laws and see themselves as invisible. In fact, this link would give you an idea on how many Australians are in jail abroad.

For me this 1998 movie is timeless. It's a fact that it will grip you till the end but the lesson that can be learn associated in this story is enormous. It might have been long gone in the movie theatre but definitely still available to be bought from your nearest store.

In an adage, live life to the fullest, but don't throw caution into the winds and as such .

A moment of leisure can be a lifetime of pain.
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