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Brokedown Palace is an Americanmarker film directed by Jonathan Kaplan, and starring Claire Danes and Kate Beckinsale. It deals with two American friends imprisoned in Thailandmarker for drug smuggling. Because it presents a critical view of the Thai legal system, most scenes were filmed in the Philippinesmarker; however, some panoramas and views were filmed in Bangkokmarker.


Lifelong best friends Alice Marano (Danes) and Darlene Davis (Beckinsale) are like night and day. Alice is bold and daring, while Darlene is more quiet and reserved. The future looks bright for both of them as they graduate from high school and make plans to attend college in the fall.

Unbeknown to their parents, they change their pre-college summer vacation destination from Hawaiimarker to Thailandmarker at Alice's insistence. Alice claims that the American dollar is much stronger overseas and they should take advantage of the opportunity. While there, they meet a captivating Australian man, Nick Parks (Daniel Lapaine), who befriends them and invites them along with him to Hong Kongmarker. However, the girls are found to have large amounts of heroin at Bangkok International Airportmarker while preparing to board their plane, and are quickly taken into custody for drug smuggling. As they are interrogated separately, Darlene is tricked into signing a confession in Thai, which she does not understand.

The story takes an abrupt turn as the girls find themselves sentenced to lengthy terms (33 years, plus 15 for an escape attempt) in a grim Thai women's prison, called the Brokedown Palace by its inmates. It is implied that there is no parole system in Thailand, and thus no chance of early release. During the first several months of their incarceration, Alice and Darlene accuse each other of attempting to smuggle the heroin, possibly at the behest of Parks. While their friendship falls apart, the facts surrounding what really happened become increasingly muddled and distorted by corrupt Thai politicians, and the girls become less and less likely to be found innocent and released. They eventually turn to Hank "The Yank" Greene (Bill Pullman), an American attorney living in Thailand, in hopes that he can free them.

At first, Greene is hesitant to represent the girls because they lied to him about leaving a Thai luxury hotel without paying. The girls eventually come clean about their attempts to "live dangerously" in their first venture far from home, and he agrees to continue representing them, though his efforts are in vain as he is beaten back by the Thai legal system at every turn.

Greene, though no longer getting paid, eventually grows fond of the girls and takes a more personal interest in their case. Trying a different tactic, he meets with DEA agent Roy Knox (Lou Diamond Phillips), who has influence with the police. Though Knox admits that the girls were probably duped, he firmly believes that someone has to go to jail for this crime. As long as no Nick Parks (obviously an alias) can be produced to clear the girls, he says, they will finish out the remainder of their sentences.

Greene goes to Hong Kong and is able to find another girl used by the smuggler whose alias is Nick Parks. He confronts DEA agent Knox, who informs him that Parks has friends in high places, namely the prosecutor who convicted the girls. Greene threatens the corrupt prosecutor with exposure to the American media and he agrees a deal. If the girls confess to the crime and withdraw their naming of Nick Parks, they will receive a royal pardon. The girls agree and sign a confession. However, they have been duped by the prosecutor, who by this time has eliminated Parks.

Alice, who realizes that Darlene will be unable to bear prison, and who is finally willing to take some responsibility for her life, falls on her knees and begs the emissary of King of Thailand to allow her to serve both Darlene's sentence and her own in exchange for Darlene's release. The offer is accepted, and the film ends with the girls' friendship restored. Darlene bids Alice farewell and returns to the States, promising that she will not stop trying to get Alice released from prison. Alice's voice-over indicates her acceptance of fate and the belief that Darlene and Hank will never stop attempting to get her released.


In 1998, just after the filming of Brokedown Palace in Manilamarker, Danes was quoted in Vogue as saying that Manila was a "ghastly and weird city." She further remarked in Premiere that the city "smelled of cockroaches, with rats all over and that there is no sewage system and the people do not have anything — no arms, no legs, no eyes." Kim Atienza, son of then-Mayor of Manila, Lito Atienza, responded to the comments by saying that, "those are irresponsible, bigoted and sweeping statements that we cannot accept." Her films were subsequently banned from being screened in the Philippinesmarker. Joseph Estrada, then-President of the Philippines, condemned her publicly, and she was declared persona non grata. Shortly after the incident, Danes issued an apology in Entertainment Weekly to the City of Manila.

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