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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Return To Paradise - A Prisoner's Dilemna Movie Review

Return to Paradise is a 1988 film Starring Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche and Joaquin Phoenix.   Three American men vacation in Malaysia. Malaysia apparently is an exotic vacation spot filled with easy sex and cheap hash, which they indulge.  The men have just met for the first time but bond closely.  Two of the men return to the United States but one stays behind only to get caught with the load of hashish that he and the other two were smoking. The caught man is sentenced to death by the Malaysian authorities.

The movie conjures up reminders of the brilliant prison classic Midnight Express, except, unlike Midnight express the condemmed man has no hope of escaping on his own. He must rely on the other two men to return to Malaysia and take responsibility for the crime. If the two men surrender to Malaysian authorities, both get three years in prison, and the condemmed man is freed. If only one returns, the man returning gets six years in prison, and the condemned man is freed.

If neither return, the condemned man dies. 

If you are game theory enthusiast, you will already recognize that this film is based on a game called prisoner's dilemma. If you aren't sure what prisoner's dilemma is, I created a bookmark here. Just go to it and find the link (then come back here :-)

The overall acting of the film was very believable and the juxtaposition between the condemned prisoner's life and the comfortable New York City life lead by the other two men really made me agonize over what I would do. Would I return to Malaysia and rot in jail for years and save a life, or stay home and build my own life?

The question is even more intriguing since these men only knew each other for a few weeks, though they very much were kindred spirits.

I thought the movie was well done and unique in its own ways.  I was impressed by the film. The only problem I had with Return to Paradise was, as a viewer, I couldn't admire the condemned man as much as the other two characters. Phoenix plays the man to die and he is young and likable but I didn't feel the glow about him that the other characters pined over.

That said, it was still a good flick with decent performances. Check it out sometime.


1 hr 49 Minutes

Rated R.  Profanity, mildly disturbing scenes

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