It promises to be a liberating adventure for Alice (Claire Danes), a wild, living-on-the-edge teenager. To celebrate her high school graduation, she and her best friend Darlene (Kate Beckinsale) have decided to treat themselves to an exotic trip. Although Alice and Darlene have told their parents that they're headed to Hawaii, the two girls' actual destination is Bangkok ("Las Vegas without parents and laws," Alice enthuses to the more cautious Darlene).

Under the magical and golden Thailand sun, Alice and Darlene have the time of their lives. But things begin to change after they meet a seductive and handsome Australian, Nick Parks (Daniel Lapaine). Both girls are smitten with Nick, who eventually asks Darlene to spend the night with him much to the surprise of the more outgoing Alice, who must fight growing feelings of resentment and anger about her friend's romantic conquest.

When Nick proposes a quick side trip to Hong Kong, Darlene convinces Alice to come along. Nick's real plans, however, are anything but romantic. At the Bangkok airport, the two girls are shocked when heroin is found in their luggage. As they are surrounded by Thai police and DEA officers, Alice and Darlene are caught up in a maelstrom of hysteria, panic and confusion, each suspecting the other of a dark betrayal.

Their mutual suspicion intensifies during their first yearof a 33-year sentence in a hideous Thai prison ruefully described by its inmates as the "Brokedown Palace." As their despair grows, they are given one last bit of hope: "Yankee Hank" (Bill Pullman), an expatriate American lawyer. But Alice, who has always been the more reckless and irresponsible of the two, eventually realizes that their salvation can only come from sacrifice ... and she realizes how far she'll go to save her friend.

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