Owen Gleiberman - Entertainment Weekly
- Entertainment Weekly
Though the clock ticks relentlessly enough to sustain the story's tension, the film finally seems to be a character study in search of a gripping plot.
Janet Maslin - New York Times
- USA Today
Like Sheriff and Tony, we're pulled both ways by the story: We want them to go back and save Lewis, but we're not exactly sure we'd do the same. That's the Prisoner's Dilemma in a nutshell.
Roger Ebert - Chicago Sun-Times
Susan Stark - Detroit News
David Rooney - Variety
- Globe and Mail
The best performance in the film belongs to Anne Heche, who continues to impress with her range. Her work here is passionate, and she effectively conveys the inner conflict of a woman whose divided loyalties tear at her soul.
James Berardinelli - ReelViews
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?
Peter Travers - Rolling Stone
If it's to be experienced at all, Return to Paradise is best seen as a lively piece of pulp, not a profound exploration of the vagaries of the human soul.
Kenneth Turan - Los Angeles Times
- Sight and Sound
Despite solid performances from the leads, it comes shrouded in a heavy cloud of ethics-class complications that makes it feel like a "dilemma of the week" TV movie.
Maitland McDonagh - TV Guide's Movie Guide
It's a painful prospect, to be sure, and Sheriff, in particular, insists he's no hero, but the next hour or so of handwringing conjures little suspense.
Geoff Andrew - Time Out
Vince Vaughn finally gives a performance putting him in the serious actor category, Joaquin Phoenix is notable and Anne Heche is believable as the impassioned attorney fighting for the life of her client.
Anthony Miele - Film Threat
Involving drama about our responsibilities to others.
Michael E. Grost - Classic Film and Television
The acting is generally good -- Vaughn is very convincing as a man forced to make a difficult decision, while Joaquin Phoenix even more convincingly plays a man condemned to die.
Dragan Antulov - rec.arts.movies.reviews
Return to Paradise is precisely the kind of film I tend to like; one which could go many ways, and one which, if done right, could have a true and profound moral. And it didn't dissapoint.
Eugene Novikov - Film Blather
Fine, low-key performances by Ann Heche as the attorney and Vince Vaughn and David Conrad as the two men she must persuade help sustain our interest in the characters. But after the wrong turn, the story feels as forced as it once was exciting.
Leonard Schwarz - Palo Alto Weekly
Jeffrey Westhoff - Northwest Herald (Crystal Lake, IL)
As disturbing as it is excellent.
John R. McEwen - Film Quips Online
Truly Unforgettable. A tour-de-force for Phoenix.
Clint Morris - Moviehole
The whole thing is quite thought provoking, and it's well written even though there are some flaws in the script.
Kevin N. Laforest - Montreal Film Journal
Vaughn labors mightily under the obviousness of the script, while managing to reveal a fragile but profound fear of being an aging frat boy who longs to realize a finer, better self, only to be petrified that quality isn't within him.
Luisa F. Ribeiro - Boxoffice Magazine
What one ambitious person does in New York City affects the deliberations of a judge in Malaysia.
Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat - Spirituality and Practice
A quiet, thoughtful movie about hard moral choices, truth, love, accountability, crime, punishment and friendship.
Robert Roten - Laramie Movie Scope
Anne Heche is the hot-wire here. Her waifish sensuality sparkles yet she never loses her downright determined edge. She is a stunning actress.
Susan Granger - rec.arts.movies.reviews
Surprisingly effective, if highly unlikely, drama of the soul and the conscience.
Christopher Null - Filmcritic.com
The story takes too long to set up, and the movie goes limp despite its eight-day time frame that's supposed to create tension.
Kristian M. Lin - rec.arts.movies.reviews
The plot carries surprises right up until the last, but with no cheap shocks or selling out, only painful inevitabilities.
Ian Waldron-Mantgani - UK Critic
An intelligent and adult look at people making hard choices in the real world.
Mark R. Leeper - rec.arts.movies.reviews
The characters aren't very sympathetic. That's not because of a lack of effort from the cast so much as heavy-handed direction and laughable dialogue.
Jeff Vice - Deseret News, Salt Lake City
Granted, Vaughn's character arc is a wonder to behold, but I can't help but think that these characters just aren't the sort of guys anyone's really going to give a damn about.
Marc Savlov - Austin Chronicle
Vaughn and Heche are the keys to giving this dilemma a human face, and both are excellent.
Dan Jardine - Apollo Guide
Director Joseph Ruben has crafted a riveting morality play you won't soon forget.
Edward Johnson-Ott - NUVO Newsweekly
This is a major example of a good idea, one that could have worked, being submitted to a Hollywood tag-team makeover.
Paul Tatara - CNN.com
An eminently respectable effort without ever becoming a compelling one.
Maitland McDonagh - Film Journal International
Even if the film suffers from its languid pacing, its fascinating plot and excellent acting more than make up for its shortcomings.
Steve Rhodes - Internet Reviews
Phoenix, who was memorable in To Die For, is unearthly here as a man reduced to a wraith by miserable prison conditions and hopelessness. As an actor, he seems to have abandoned his body entirely in order to communicate only through his spirit.
Barbara Shulgasser - San Francisco Examiner
Solid premise filled with a plethora of moral dilemmas, this film rocks you through the gamut of emotions on the strength of its superb casting and genuine performances.
JoBlo - JoBlo's Movie Emporium
The real discovery ... is Vince Vaughn, who didn't make as much of a splash in Jurassic Park: The Lost World as he was expected to. Now he does.
Bob Graham - San Francisco Chronicle
...It all seems to be a predictable formula-driven film instead of one filled with an unpredictable raw energy.
Dennis Schwartz - Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Although we've been conditioned to want something to cheer about in the last reels of moral thrillers, this picture is all the more satisfying and memorable because it eschews these expectations.
Rob Blackwelder - SPLICEDWire
While Return to Paradise headlines several surprises, the grandest revelation is Anne Heche.
Harvey S. Karten - Compuserve
Bob Thompson - Jam! Movies
Return to Paradise isn't a bad film. It's just one that doesn't live up to its potential.
Madeleine Williams - Cinematter
Discovering that his father's opinion of him is as low as his opinion of himself, Vaughn conveys his dismay and a new self-awareness with a furrow of his brow and a kind of panic in his eyes, an economy of physicality that nevertheless speaks volumes.
MaryAnn Johanson - Flick Filosopher
A largely intriguing drama whose by-the-numbers paces are elevated to a higher level by the strong acting ensemble.
Michael Dequina - TheMovieReport.com