February 9, 2011
“Lion” in Wait
Here I am again, reviewing yet another “man vs. nature” movie. This time, we’ve got two seemingly demon possessed lions murdering railroad workers in turn of the century Uganda. Our hero is John Patterson (Val Kilmer), a contractor hired by a wealthy (and ruthless) tycoon to oversee construction of a bridge that will bolster commerce in the region. When the murderous lions in question begin terrorizing—and maiming—John’s workers, something’s got to be done (especially when they all flee at the suspicion that he’s brought about a curse on the area). Cue the entrance of Charles Remington (Michael Douglas), a world-renowned hunter who’s the embodiment of the old-school, no-holds-barred, shotgun-toting, Hemingway-esque man’s man.
Director Stephen Hopkins decides the go the route of Jaws, as it’s rare that we’re given a clean, full frame shot of the “monsters.” This turns out to be a great decision, as it adds to the suspense when we see a silhouette (or think we see one) moving stealthily among the rippling, waist high savanna. In that regard, there’s no denying that The Ghost and the Darkness delivers the goods in the “suspense” department.
Unfortunately, the film does have its problems. First and foremost is the entirely too abrupt conclusion, which, quite honestly, feels sloppy and rushed. After all we’ve been through with Patterson and Remington, one would expect a grand finale that heightens the tension to unbearable levels. Instead we get something like a watered down version of the velociraptor kitchen scene in Jurassic Park.
There’s also the lack of satisfaction that could have been delivered if the one person we truly despise in the story got what he had coming to him. Spontenaity is a good thing, but all I could think about as the final act unfolded was how badly I hoped that the greedy businessman would finally come in contact with a beast infinitely more malicious than himself.
Then there’s the music, which alternates between stirring and grating. Particularly annoying is the decision to work some sort of elephant/hyena noise into what would be an otherwise memorable score.
If it weren’t for the final half hour and the previously mentioned sub-par musical renderings, it’d be safe to call The Ghost and the Darkness an underrated thriller. Instead it fizzles into a flabby shadow of its former self, much like a long coveted balloon that’s held on until there’s simply nothing left.
out of 5