One of the problems in today's society is that thousands of people feel so bad about themselves that they have trouble accepting their inestimable spiritual worth. It is easy to see ourselves as sinners and quite difficult to cherish our inner gold. This is one of the important themes in Return to Paradise, an emotionally affecting morality play.

College graduates Sheriff (Vince Vaughn), Lewis (Joaquin Phoenix), and Tony (David Conrad) meet and become good friends while traveling in Asia. They spend four weeks in Penang, Malaysia sampling rum, women, and drugs. While the other two return home to the U.S., Lewis stays behind. He wants to link up with an ecological group trying to save monkeys.

Two years later, Beth (Anne Heche), an attorney, contacts Sheriff and Tony with the shocking news that in eight days Lewis will be executed. He was sent to prison when police found the drugs his friends left behind at the place where they all stayed. Unless Sheriff and Tony return and accept responsibility for their error by serving three years each in prison, Lewis will be hanged.

Joseph Ruben directs this thriller which compels us to consider how far we would go and what we would risk for a friend in life-threatening trouble. During the eight days he has left, Beth tries everything she can think of to save Lewis's life. Sheriff is a tough nut to crack, hiding behind a cynical fatade and constant barbs. Tony is an engineer whose decision is complicated by the love of his fiancee. As the deadline closes in on Lewis, new surprises abound, putting a final exclamation point on the moral point that all our lives are interrelated. What one ambitious person does in New York City affects the deliberations of a judge in Malaysia.