"DEN OF LIONS"
by Kevin Carr
|| MOVIE: ** (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: *1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Stephen Dorff as MIKE VARGA
Bob Hoskins as DARIUS PASKEVIC
Laura Fraser as KATYA PASKEVIC
Ian Hart as ROB SHEPARD
David O’Hara as FERKO KURCHINA
Joszsef Gyabronka as LASZLO JUSKUS
Directed by: James Bruce
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I find it funny that the last Stephen Dorff movie I saw before “Den of Lions” was the Uwe Boll stinkfest “Alone in the Dark.” To be honest, I’m not surprised to see his career go from the superstar to the slums of cinema with movies like this. He really isn’t that great, and these movies prove it.
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“Den of Lions” tells the story of Mike Varga (Dorff), an FBI agect of Hungarian descent who is shipped off to the Eastern bloc to undermine a smuggling ring. He grows close to the crime boss Darius Paskevik (Bob Hoskins) – so close that he’s banging Paskevik’s daughter (Laura Fraser). However, when his involvement in a human trafficking ring gets out of hand, Varga’s cover – and life – is threatened.
“Den of Lions” tries to be a high tension thriller, but there’s almost no focus in the story. Dorff’s character of Mike Varga flops around on screen with a chip on his shoulder. He’s such a diminutive actor that I never quite buy him as a tough guy – not when he’s put up against these massive Russian gangsters in the film.
It’s not that Dorff doesn’t try. He does. He just fails miserably at it. There is no sympathy for his character from him. Watching this movie is like having flashbacks to “Alone in the Dark.” But at least that mess of a movie had a certain level of bubble-gum enjoyment to it.
I’m sure the filmmakers were thinking that they could boost the production value of the film by cutting costs with an eastern European shoot. In general, eastern Europe is stealing a lot of production from the states and has a burgeoning (yet still cheap) film industry. However, I’ve seen so many lower budget films recently that an eastern European location screams low budget to me.
The DVD has no special features, so that doesn’t even save things. “Den of Lions” tries to be significant, but it can’t stay on target. On one hand, you have this horrible underbelly of the mafia basically kidnapping women and forcing them into lives of prostitution. However, on the other hand, you’ve got Stephen Dorff trying to play the hard-nosed cop.
Bob Hoskins tries to bring a level of respectability to the film, but even his presence doesn’t help things. The weight of the film drags him down, and it is all to clear that Hoskins is just collecting a paycheck. It’s too bad that he comes across as the most likeable character in the movie. He’s supposed to be the villain, after all.
Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Widescreen (2.35:1), enhanced for 16x9 televisions. Spanish language track. English language subtitles for the hearing impaired.