Brokedown Palace

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Brokedown Palace
Brokedown Palace.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJonathan Kaplan
Screenplay byDavid Arata
Story byAdam Fields
David Arata
Produced byAdam Fields
CinematographyNewton Thomas Sigel
Edited byCurtiss Clayton
Music byDavid Newman
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • August 13, 1999 (1999-08-13) (United States)
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited States
  • English
  • Thai
Budget$25 million
Box office$10.1 million

Brokedown Palace is a 1999 American drama film directed by Jonathan Kaplan, and starring Claire Danes, Kate Beckinsale, Bill Pullman and Lim Kay Tong. It deals with two American friends imprisoned in Thailand for alleged drug smuggling. Its title is taken from a Grateful Dead song written by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter from their 1970 album American Beauty.


Lifelong best friends Alice Marano and Darlene Davis take a trip after graduating from high school, giving their parents the impression that they are going to Hawaii. However, Alice talks Darlene into going to Thailand instead, after comparing the prices of both destinations. Darlene agrees, albeit with some reluctance. Once in Thailand, they meet a captivating Australian man who calls himself Nick Parks. Unknown to them, Nick is a drug smuggler. Darlene is particularly smitten with Nick and persuades Alice to take him up on his offer to treat them both to a side trip to Hong Kong. While boarding their flight at Don Mueang International Airport, the girls are detained by the police. Alice and Darlene are shocked to discover that one of their bags contains heroin, which they insist must have been planted by Nick.

The two girls are interrogated by the Thai police and Darlene signs a confession written in Thai, believing it to be a transcript of her statement. At their trial, they beg for mercy and are sentenced to 33 years in prison, the judge choosing to show leniency and not issue the standard life sentence. In prison, the girls are advised to seek out Henry Greene, aka "Yankee Hank", an expatriate American attorney living in Thailand.

As the girls try to deal with the violence and squalor of prison, Hank begins work on their case. He tracks down another girl who had been used as an unwitting drug mule by a man named Skip K. Carn. Hank deduces that Carn and Parks are the same person, since each name is an anagram of the other, and that he planted the drugs and tipped off the Thai police about the girls as a distraction to make sure his other mules could avoid scrutiny. Warned that Parks has influential friends in the Thai government, Hank arranges a deal with a corrupt prosecutor to secure a pardon for the girls if they recant their claim about Parks' involvement and take full responsibility for smuggling the drugs. The girls agree, but the prosecutor double-crosses them on the deal. Realizing that Darlene will not survive their time in prison, Alice begs the King of Thailand to allow her to serve both sentences, which have been extended by 15 years after an escape attempt, in exchange for letting Darlene go. The deal is accepted and Darlene is released. She promises to continue working with Hank to try to free Alice. The film ends with the narration from Alice saying many people will not understand why she made this decision. It's also implied Alice may be in prison for a long time.



Because the film presents a critical view of the Thai legal system, most of the scenes were filmed in the Philippines; however, some panoramas and views were filmed in Bangkok. Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 was used as a stand in for Don Mueang International Airport.[citation needed]

The prison scenes were shot inside the Sanctuary Center for Psychotic Female Vagrants, a mental asylum for women operated by the DSWD in Mandaluyong City, Manila. A makeshift wall was erected down the site's grounds and filming took place in one half. Real inmates were crammed in the other half during the shoot. Amanda De Cadenet, who starred in the film, recounted how disgruntled patients would sometimes throw feces over the dividing wall in protest. Meanwhile, Claire Danes told a publication that scenes were often interrupted by wailing women.[citation needed]

Danes caused controversy when she made derogatory comments regarding Manila during filming. Danes told Vogue the city was "ghastly and weird", and told Premiere that "[Manila] just f***ing smelled like cockroaches", "There’s no sewage system and the people do not have anything", "[We saw] people with like, no arms, no legs, no eyes, no teeth", and "Rats were everywhere." Danes later said of those remarks, "... the cast was exposed to the darker and more impoverished places of Manila" and that her comments were only meant to reflect the locations, not her attitudes toward the people, which she said were "nothing but warm, friendly and supportive." Three of the 26 city councilors voted against the resolution, including Julio Logarta, who referred to it as a "curtailment of freedom of expression", and said that "Most of what [Danes] said is true." Kim Atienza, the principal author of the resolution, said that they would lift the ban with a public apology from Danes, and said of Danes's statement that it was an "excuse made by Hollywood press officers and not a genuine apology". Danes and her films were banned from Manila, a ban which has not been lifted.[1][2][3][4]


Brokedown Palace received largely negative reviews from critics.

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes rated the film "Rotten", with only 31% of 35 critics giving positive reviews, summarizing that the movie "lacks credibility and tension".[5] Roger Ebert, however, gave the film three out of four stars, saying, "The heart of the film is in the performances of Danes and Beckinsale".[6]

The film flopped at the box office, failing to make back even half of its $25 million budget.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Manila Bans Claire Danes' Movies". Associated Press. 29 September 1998. Retrieved 2022-05-15.
  2. ^ Coffey, Helen (2017-04-07). "8 celebrities guilty of offending the locals on holiday". The Independent. Retrieved 2022-05-15.
  3. ^ Speed, Barbara (2021-06-09). "The authorities keep trying to ban celebrities from Manila". New Statesman. Retrieved 2022-05-15.
  4. ^ "Manila Is Mad At Claire Danes". CBS. 1 October 1998. Retrieved 2022-05-15.
  5. ^ "Brokedown Palace - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2013-02-28.
  6. ^ Roger Ebert (August 13, 1999). "Brokedown Palace". Chicago Sun-Times.

External links[edit]