The Ghost and the Darkness references two lions that terrorized the work site of a bridge in Africa circa the turn of the century. As the film reminds you several times, the basis of the movie is constructed on real events that happened to Col. John Patterson played here by the always terrific Val Kilmer. Patterson accepts the job as a way to see a continent he has long been fascinated with and to work himself up the ladder in the employee of a tyrant's (Tom Wilkinson) company for the British.
The first attack of the company brings swift retribution from Patterson as he kills a normal sized lion suspected of the killing. Soon it becomes evident that they have more than that to worry about. Two enormous man-eaters brutalize the camp and lead the workers to the aformentioned nicknames for the lions. A man named Remington (Michael Douglas) is called in to rid the construction site of the lions.
Stephen Hopkins, who directed The Ghost and the Darkness, is one of the directors I've talked about before. Just this year he brought us the Gothic thriller The Reaping that had a mess of third act. He is clearly talented and shows it here. Hopkins spins a tale that is very taut with very little excess at 105 minutes. The film gets to the point very early on. Think of it as Jaws on the land. Michael Douglas gets the juicy Robert Shaw-like role. Although, Douglas doesn't make an appearance til the 45 min mark. Douglas looks like he just stepped out of Romancing the Stone and chews up his screentime with much aplomb.
The CGI lions look a bit fake by today's standards, but most of the scenes are very convincing. Kilmer and Douglas seem to have a chemistry that isn't all construced in the screenplay. You get a sense of real admiration Patterson has for the hunter Remington. Their friendship with the foreman of the crew played by the indespensable John Kani again has that comradely that lacks so many movies of this type. The actors are top notch and Hopkins shows us again that when he chooses the right material he can make a slick thriller look effortless.