The Ghost and the Darkness - * *

The Ghost and the Darkness is a partially thrilling adventure tale that needed to go through the rewrite machine at least one more time. The year is 1898, and the setting of this true story is East Africa. Val Kilmer portrays Lt. Col. John Patterson, an ambitious Irish engineer who is sent to build a bridge over the river Tsavo, so that the English railway can continue. His efforts run into trouble when a pair of maneating lions (one light, one dark…thus their names) begins to munch on his crew. He at first tries to tackle the problem alone, but soon is outmatched, and enlists the aid of legendary hunter Remington (Michael Douglas), veteran of the American Civil War. Together, the two begin the hunt. The Ghost and the Darkness definately has its highs and lows. When the highs are in play, the terror is palpable. Many of the hunt scenes perch you precariously on the edge of your seat. Unfortunately, the film has its lows as well. At some times it is merely a confused, jumbled mess. At others, it borders on laughable parody. We’re stuck with a ludicrous dream sequence, dive bombing birds, and enough shaky jump cuts to make a music video director queasy. Both Kilmer and Douglas are a bit too modern in their mannerisms and acting to suggest the 19th century, although Kilmer, in the central performance, does manage to prop up the film. Director Stephen Hopkins gives a valiant try, and at times succeeds, but overall he can’t save this film from itself.

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