Return to Paradise

What if you were asked to spend three years in a Malaysian prison on a drug rap to save a friend you haven't seen in two years? Lawyer Beth Eastern (Anne Heche) puts that question to Sheriff (Vince Vaughn), a New York limo driver, and Tony (David Conrad), an engineer. Their pal Lewis (Joaquin Phoenix) has been caught with hashish that the trio shared during a vacation in Penang, and he will be executed in eight days if they don't return to paradise and share the rap.

What if only one man returns? What if reporter M.J. Major (Jada Pinkett Smith) prints the story and angers Malaysian authorities? What if Sheriff and Beth fall in love? More to the point: What if director Joseph Ruben didn't resort to B-movie suspense tricks? What if the fine cast wasn't saddled with a shamelessly contrived script by Wesley Strick and Bruce Robinson? What if Heche and Vaughn — generating the erotic heat that Heche and Harrison Ford couldn't manage in 6 Days, 7 Nights — transcended these flaws on the sheer force of their sexual combustibility? Then Return to Paradise would be a better movie, that's what if.

From The Archives Issue 794: September 3, 1998