128 user 67 critic

Return to Paradise (1998)

Two friends must choose whether to help a third friend who was arrested in Malaysia for drug possession.



(motion picture Force Majeure), (motion picture Force Majeure) (as O. Schatzky) | 2 more credits »

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2 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Tony Croft
Ming Lee ...
Mr. Chandran
Mr. Doramin
James McCauley ...
Famous Divorce Lawyer (as James Michael McCauley)
Young Woman in Limo (as Brettanya Friese)
Woman in Bar
Construction Foreman
Amy Wong ...
Ticket Agent (as Amy Wong)


Three friends share an exciting vacation in Malaysia, full of fun, drinks, women and hash. When the vacation is over, each have dreams of continuing their lives, and they all go their separate ways. One of them (Phoenix) remains on the tropical paradise to fulfill a dream of working with apes for research. Two years later, a lawyer (Heche) comes to New York and hunts down the other two friends to give some sad news. A few days after they left the island, police raided their camp and found amazingly large quantities of hash left about. Phoenix was still residing there, so he had to take the blame. He is set to be put to death in 8 days, and the only way the charges can be decreased is if the two friends come back to paradise and take their share of the responsibilty. If they do, they both will spend three years in prison. If only one does, he will spend six years behind bars... Written by R.P. Falvey

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Give up three years of their lives or give up the life of their friend. They have eight days to decide.

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language, drug content, some sexuality and a scene of violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

14 August 1998 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A Long Way to Paradise  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$2,465,129 (USA) (16 August 1998)


$8,288,513 (USA) (27 September 1998)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Working titles included Long Way to Paradise, All for One and Force Majeure, the title of the 1990 French film of which this is a remake. See more »


Beth has an additional ring once they leave New York. See more »


Sherrif: I know her. Like know her.
See more »

Crazy Credits

In memory of DANNY ARNOLD See more »


Referenced in Decker: Sonrise (2017) See more »


The Courtship
Written by Benny Carter
Performed by Kenny Barron, Roy Drummond and Ben Riley
See more »

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User Reviews

You'd take 3 years from me but you wouldn't take my word?
15 August 2009 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Sheriff and Tony are taking a hedonistic holiday in Penang, Malaysia. Hooking up with friend of the Earth, Lewis McBride they have a wonderful time and bonds are well and truly formed. Come the time for Sheriff and Tony to return to America, they leave Lewis their respective blocks of Hasish as gifts. The name Lewis McBride is forgotten by both men until two years later a lawyer turns up in New York to tell them both some startling news. After the boys left Penang, the police searched their beach house and found the Hashish, the volume of which got him arrested for drug trafficking. A crime punishable by death by Malaysian law. In 8 days time, Lewis, who has been locked up in dreadful Penang prison for two years, will be hung unless both the guys go back to Penang and accept their responsibility for the Hashish. An acceptance that will get each of them 3 years prison themselves.

Return To Paradise is a remake of a little known and seen French film from Pierre Jolivet called Force majeure. Throwing up a deep moral quandary and no small amount of surprises, it may just be one of the most undervalued films from the 90s. Starring Vince Vaughn, Anne Heche, Joaquin Phoenix and Jada Pinkett Smith, Jolivet's story gnaws away at the audience as it forces the issue at hand. Namely what would you do in the same situation? To save a friends life are you prepared to spend three years in a notoriously dank and desperate hell hole? Tho the piece is emotionally loaded in favour of doing what most would deem the right thing, the makers sucker us in, only to then steer us in other directions with a triple hander of a finale. There is also the impact of the press here, something that is crucial to the plot, and it's something that thankfully isn't glossed over. This really is a tightly constructed picture.

Vaughn {Sheriff} shows some great dramatic chops, it's refreshing to see him away from frat pack comedy shenanigans. Heche {Beth} looks gorgeous and gives her character real depth, while Phoenix as the imprisoned Lewis is heartbreakingly real. Not faring so well is Pinkett Smith as pesky reporter M.J. Major. Tho only a small part, it's really hard to accept her as a tough reporter who can get things done. Worthy of a mention is the cinematography by Reynaldo Villalobos, the shift in tones he uses between Malaysia to America is very smart and forces the issue of two completely different cultures. This is after all not just about a dilemma, it's also about differing laws on different continents. I found this film to be an emotional roller-coaster that stayed with me for some time after. It's hoped that more people will seek it out and get as much emotion and cranial ponderings from it that I most assuredly did. 8/10

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