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David BruceWould you give up 3 years of your life in to save a friend from execution? Would you give up 6 years? Would you give your life?
-Review by David Bruce
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R
ETURN TO PARADISE
(1998)

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It's Paradise Lost and the famous Prisoner's Dilemma, one of the oldest puzzles in mathematics and philosophy.
Sheriff: Vince Vaughn,
Beth: Anne Heche,
Lewis: Joaquin Phoenix,
Tony: David Conrad,
Kerrie: Vera Farmiga,
M.J. Major: Jada Pinkett Smith.

Directed by Joseph Ruben. Screenplay by Bruce Robinson and Wesley Strick.
Running time: 109 minutes.
Rated R (for language, drug content, some sensuality and a scene of violence).
This is a story about returning to the Garden of Eden and yielding to temptation that results in paradise lost. It's about your depth of soul!
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Two years ago, three college students, Lewis,
Sheriff and Tony, met by chance and became close
friends while on vacation in Asia. After a reckless, month-long spree in Panang, Malaysia, Sheriff and Tony left behind Lewis, who was dedicated to helping the endangered orangutan. Sheriff and Tony gave several ounces of hashish to Lewis as a gift to remember them by.

The next day, Lewis was arrested by Malaysian authorities, tried, convicted and sentenced to death, the standard penalty for drug trafficking in Malaysia. Despite the fact that Lewis had never committed another crime in his life.

Now, Malaysian authorities have agreed to spare Lewis' life if his partners in crime, Sheriff and Tony, will return to Malaysia to endure a three year prison sentence. The question? Will they do it, and why should they have to?

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Sheriff   and Tony are contacted in New York and told of Lewis' plight by Tony's advocate, Beth. The problem, she explains, is that Lewis was over the legal limit for possession by one person, making him a trafficker, not a user. However if Sheriff and Tony return to Malaysia and testify that they all owned the hashish together, Lewis will be not be executed. But, Sheriff and Tony will each have to spend three years apiece in prison. If only one of them returns, it'll be six years. There is also the remote possibility of facing death if things don't go well.
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I was deeply moved by this film. Vince Vaughn, and Anne Heche gave outstanding performances. It was thrilling to watch such great talent. The story was spellbinding because it connects to us at a very deep level. What is friendship? How would we respond? What is our soul in a manner like this?
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BULLETIN BOARD:

RETURN TO PARADISE?
Subject: ReturnToParadise
Date: Thu, 21 Feb 2002
From: Maia

I have only just seen this movie so am probably a bit late for the bulletin board!! But I just had to say this is one of the most offensive and racist movies I have ever seen. What a heap of rubbish. The classic American theme of "any justice outside our own is inferior" was pathetic - from a country that commits some of the worst atrocities and still enforces the death penalty. The Malaysians were portrayed as a bunch of ignorant, unfeeling animals which is simply untrue and unfair. As for Lewis the poor nature-loving, God-fearing boy sentenced to death by the ruthless Malaysians - you didn't even see enough of his character to be able to form any opinion on him. The clever twist of the moral dilemma?? Sheriff's character was an oafish dullard who didn't seem to have any morality till he got laid by the lawyer/sister/joke of a character Beth.

I could rant for pages on this appalling excuse for a film but won't waste anymore of anyone's time. Quite simply the worst movie I have EVER seen. An absolute disgrace. I noticed that it wasn't filmed anyway on location in Malaysia. I certainly wouldn't have let them anywhere near the place if I had been the relevant authorities.

TRUTH?
Date: Mon, 20 Nov 2000
From: DJ

Although the credits state that all characters are fictitious. Was the film based on a real life story or was this just to help protect against any possible libel action? Does anybody know the truth? DJ

Response: I think not. -David

ANSWER TO QUESTION
Date: Tue, 15 Feb 2000
From: Louray

Did the "who is Danny Arnold" question get answered? He is the father of the Executive producer of the movie (Return to Paradise).
Louray

BASED ON A TRUE STORY?
March 15, 1999. Does anyone know if this film is based on a true story? also, does anyone know who danny arnold is? The film was dedicated to him at the end. I tried to find out from amnesty international, but to no avail..

OFFICIAL SITE
Return to Paradise. © 1998 PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, Distribution, Inc. All rights reserved.