September 6, 1998 -- "Back to Paradise" is an oddity in today's movie market. It is a quiet, thoughtful movie about hard moral choices, truth, love, accountability, crime, punishment and friendship.There are no car chases or shootouts, jail breaks or high-tech gadgetry. There are no quick and easy solutions to the central problem posed by the movie, but there are intelligent people portrayed making tough choices after serious consideration, listening not only to their minds, but their hearts. That is unusual in any story, especially a commercial movie. <> The story has to do with three friends who spend some time in Malaysia together. They buy a large quantity of hashish, but leave it behind when they split up. One of the three gets left holding the bag, so to speak, and is sentenced to death because the drugs were at the house he was in the process of leaving when the police arrived.
The man, Lewis McBride, the most blameless of the three, takes the fall for what the other two did without implicating them, but when his appeals run out and he only has a week left to live, he accepts a deal that would release him if one or both of his friends would return to Malaysia to accept their share of the blame.
McBride's attorney, Beth Eastern, (Anne Heche of "6 Days and 7 Nights" and "Wag the Dog") returns to New York to persuade Lewis' two friends to return to face from three to six years in prison. If one returns, it is six years, if two return, it is three years for each of the two men.
One of McBride's friends, John "Sheriff" Volgecherev (Vince Vaughn), is immediately suspicious of the whole idea and doesn't trust Eastern. He seems to reject the idea out of hand. The other friend, Tony, (David Conrad) is about to be married and seems to have his whole life in front of him, yet he agrees to go if the other friend, John will return to Malaysia with him, reducing the sentence to three years.
If this seems pretty straightforward, it isn't. The plot is much more complicated than that. The relationship between these four characters is dynamic and there are some surprising developments. Both John and Tony do some serious soul searching and Eastern's role in the lives of all three men becomes much more complicated.
While I didn't much care for the way the movie ended, and the way a particular newspaper reporter was portrayed (the only really shallow, unthinking character in the film), and the way many scenes seemed poorly lit (or maybe the projector light was weak) the film is quite good. It is serious, contemplative and well-written, acted and directed for the most part. It held my interest to the end. It rates a B.
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