That's The Ghost And the Darkness in a nutshell. And while it may be, as the press materials say, "one of the most thrilling true stories ever told," it has somehow turned into one of the most boring movies of the year, owing to a downright dull directorial job by Stephen Hopkins and a surprisingly flat script by double Oscar-winner William Goldman.
Set during the rush to colonialize Africa in 1898, Val Kilmer stars as John Patterson, a bridge-builder working for the British railroad. Down in the belly of the country on assignment, two lions suddenly show up and begin decimating the crew, and no one is able to stop them. Even renowned hunter Charles Remington (Michael Douglas) is brought in, but the lions seem unstoppable. Hundreds are killed by these "man-eaters," and the natives eventually give them the monikers, the Ghost and the Darkness -- devils.
I'll admit, I think there's a story there, it's just not a movie, mainly because of the simplistic direction the film takes (no lions - lions - no lions). Everything is earnest in trying to convince the viewer that this is a True Story, I guess so you'll have a little more sympathy for the limp plotline. But like I said, The Ghost And the Darkness keeps you waiting, and waiting, and waiting... and it just never revs up.
Combine this arrow-straight plot with a whole lot of gore (more than many people in the audience at my screening wanted -- as some of them left and never returned) and you get a picture that resembles a slasher movie much more than it does an action/drama.
That's not an altogether bad thing, but it's certainly not what I was expecting. (Points only for cinematography, fine acting, and cool supporting characters.)
Prey for the hunters, but pray for something exciting to happen.
Run time: 109 mins
In Theaters: Friday 11th October 1996
Distributed by: Paramount Home Video
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 50%
Fresh: 23 Rotten: 23
IMDB: 6.8 / 10
Director: Stephen Hopkins
Screenwriter: William Goldman
Starring: Michael Douglas as Charles Remington, Val Kilmer as Col. John Henry Patterson, Tom Wilkinson as Robert Beaumont, John Kani as Samuel, Emily Mortimer as Helena Patterson, Bernard Hill as Dr. David Hawthorne, Brian McCardie as Angus Starling, Om Puri as Abdullah