Den of Lions (2003) from Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Den of Lions is a modestly budgeted straight-to-vid espionage thriller set in Eastern Europe, of the type that usually star Steven Seagal or Wesley Snipes. In this case the star is Stephen Dorff, the second-tier Kiefer Sutherland, and he plays a Hungarian-American FBI agent working undercover to infiltrate the Russian mob in Budapest. Making the job really complicated is the fact that the he falls in love with the daughter (Laura Fraser) of the mob's kingpin (Bob Hoskins).

Why would America get involved in these Eastern European matters? Well, it seems that those crazy mobsters are not just pushing prostitution and drugs this month, but are also having a Veteran's Day sale on weapons of mass destruction. They've figured out a way to obtain a nuclear weapon through their connections in the former Red Army, and plan to sell it to Middle Eastern terrorists.

Candidly, the film isn't very tight or suspenseful. It begins with a long car chase which is virtually irrelevant to the rest of the movie. Following that is a period of narration in which Stephen Dorff tells us the back-story about the development of the Russian mob in Budapest, as related in the manner of a typical Dragnet introduction - "I was working the day watch out of bunco" - with a little bit of Sam Spade thrown in - "It was a cold night in a cold town. It was black, but nothing is every really black or white." While we hear about the agent's personal history and the history of the mob boss, some vaguely related visuals show us around Budapest a bit. All of that is followed by a sub-plot which lasts almost an hour, in which the agent convinces the kingpin's daughter to free a woman who was separated from her family and kidnapped into involuntary prostitution. All of that doesn't make for very compelling story-telling, and tends to distract from the real heart of the film, which is (or at least should have been) the nuclear threat. Unfortunately, when all the back-story and sub-plots are concluded, and the story finally gears up, all it has to offer is the usual staple diet of the genre: gunfights and chase scenes.

Bob Hoskins still stars in plenty of good movies. Just last year he made Danny the Dog and Mrs Henderson Presents, in which he played two very different roles, both very professionally, as always. The fact that he occasionally appears in crap like Son of the Mask, Maid in Manhattan, and Den of Lions is not scaring me yet, but I hope that Hoskins, always a personal favorite, is not yet getting ready to join the Ben Kingsley Club of actors who never pre-read their scripts as long as the paycheck meets their requirements.

The most entertaining part of the film's denouement is a long bit of completely gratuitous nudity from the gorgeous Hungarian actress Zita Gorog. When the mobster's house/headquarters is finally besieged by the Hungarian police, with only a few minutes left in the film, Gorog (playing, I suppose, a gypsy prostitute) is sleeping inside, wearing only a tiny thong. As the gun battle begins, she gets out of bed and wanders around the house in that state of nudity, ostensibly drugged-out, until she finds the mobster's lifeless corpse, which she proceeds to strip of valuables! Her spectacular body was naked for about two minutes of running time, and I don't think she had any lines! To be honest, I don't know if I should call that scene gratuitous because, although it was certainly irrelevant to the development of the plot, and came in out of left field, it did add some interesting texture which the film generally lacked in other scenes. Those two minutes, which include the Hoskins death scene, are probably the best part of the film. So cross out "gratuitous" above, and let's just call it a guilty pleasure, just about the only real pleasure in the film, and a very late one, coming some 90 minutes after the opening curtain.



  • No meaningful features
  • The DVD has a solid, workmanlike widescreen anamorphic transfer.


Zita Gorog walks around for about two minutes in a fog, naked except for a thong!

The Critics Vote ...

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The People Vote ...

The meaning of the IMDb score: 7.5 usually indicates a level of excellence equivalent to about three and a half stars from the critics. 6.0 usually indicates lukewarm watchability, comparable to approximately two and a half stars from the critics. The fives are generally not worthwhile unless they are really your kind of material, equivalent to about a two star rating from the critics, or a C- from our system. Films rated below five are generally awful even if you like that kind of film - this score is roughly equivalent to one and a half stars from the critics or a D on our scale. (Possibly even less, depending on just how far below five the rating is.

Our own guideline:

  • A means the movie is so good it will appeal to you even if you hate the genre.
  • B means the movie is not good enough to win you over if you hate the genre, but is good enough to do so if you have an open mind about this type of film. Any film rated B- or better is recommended for just about anyone. In order to rate at least a B-, a film should be both a critical and commercial success. Exceptions: (1) We will occasionally rate a film B- with good popular acceptance and bad reviews, if we believe the critics have severely underrated a film. (2) We may also assign a B- or better to a well-reviewed film which did not do well at the box office if we feel that the fault lay in the marketing of the film, and that the film might have been a hit if people had known about it. (Like, for example, The Waterdance.)
  • C+ means it has no crossover appeal, but will be considered excellent by people who enjoy this kind of movie. If this is your kind of movie, a C+ and an A are indistinguishable to you.
  • C means it is competent, but uninspired genre fare. People who like this kind of movie will think it satisfactory. Others probably will not.
  • C- indicates that it we found it to be a poor movie, but genre addicts find it watchable. Any film rated C- or better is recommended for fans of that type of film, but films with this rating should be approached with caution by mainstream audiences, who may find them incompetent or repulsive or both. If this is NOT your kind of movie, a C- and an E are indistinguishable to you.
  • D means you'll hate it even if you like the genre. We don't score films below C- that often, because we like movies and we think that most of them have at least a solid niche audience. Now that you know that, you should have serious reservations about any movie below C-. Films rated below C- generally have both bad reviews and poor popular acceptance.
  • E means that you'll hate it even if you love the genre.
  • F means that the film is not only unappealing across-the-board, but technically inept as well.


Based on this description, this film is a C-. It is a workmanlike effort, and it stars Bob Hoskins, but the story-telling is slow, unfocused  and clumsy, while the plot and dialogue are strictly by-the-numbers. It is not incompetent, but it is uninspired.

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