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Where you are the endangered species.—Poster tagline
An expedition to the titular Congo on telecommunications company Travi-Com's part to develop a laser weapon ends in disaster when the party is slain by an unseen threat. Dr. Karen Ross (Laura Linney), who to used be the fiance of one of the members of the party, is sent to investigate the slaying and retrieve the weapon.
Meanwhile, Dr. Peter Elliott (Dylan Walsh), a primatologist, has invented a device that translates sign-language into audible English, and by doing so has given his pet gorilla, Amy, the ability to speak (she is voiced by Shayna Fox). Amy has been having nightmares, so Peter resolves to take her back to her birthplace in the Congo. At first he is unable to find funding, but then Romanian philanthropist Herkermer Homolka (Tim Curry) grants it. It is revealed that Herkermer has an ulterior motive; to find the mythical lost city of Zinj, said to contain an ample diamond mine. Peter, Amy, Herkermer, and Peter's friend Richard (Grant Heslov) meet with Karen and head for Africa. Once there, they meet their guide, Captain Munro Kelly (Ernie Hudson), and embark on the expedition.
Along the way, they encounter Zaire soldiers, hippopotami, and finally the city of Zinj itself, guarded by a pack of killer gorillas responsible for its elusiveness and for the initial expedition's slaughter.
Congo is certainly trite, shallow, silly and cheesy; but intentionally so. If you don't think too hard about it, then it's a perfectly acceptable So Bad It's Good or So Okay It's Average fragment of entertainment; if you're browsing Blockbuster one night for a DVD for movie night with your friends and they don't have Anaconda, this will do instead.
Tropes the film follows:
- Action Girl: Karen Ross kicks serious ass in the movie. In the novel she's an Ice Queen who becomes overly focussed on her goal.
- All-Natural Gem Polish: The mines's diamonds.
- ...And Show It to You: Poor, poor Richard
- As Long as It Sounds Foreign: Herkemer Homolka is so not a Romanian name. Homolka is actually a Czech surname.
- Banana Republic: The African version.
- Black Dude Dies First: Averted; Munro manages to survive all the way through.
- Bruce Campbell: In what he referred to as a "small, dead-in-five-minutes" role as Karen's missing boyfriend Charlie.
- Call Back:
"What the hell is that?!"
"The latest in modern communications!"
- Chekhov's Gun: The hot air balloon that Karen insists they don't need.
- Collapsing Lair
- Convection, Schmonvection
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Travis is a very mild version.
- Darkest Africa
- Death by Adaptation: Kahega, who was a much more important character in the book, and the survivor from the first expedition the heroes find in a tribal village.
- Death by Materialism: Homolka is killed by the gorillas while collecting diamonds.
- Gory Discretion Shot: The killer gorillas bashing in Homolka' s head isn't seen, but you sure can hear it.
- Frickin' Laser Beams: Mostly averted; the laser has no recoil, travels immediately in a straight constant beam and produces deadly amounts of heat and cutting power. It does, however, include a visible beam, appears to cauterize wounds, and is powered by an unprocessed diamond that was chipped out of a rock literally seconds earlier. So basically all the cool parts without any of the hassle or overwhelming gore.
- Great White Hunter: Somewhat straight in the novel, although really Munro is more of a Hired Mercenary type, and also half-Indian. The trope proper is spoofed in the film.
Munro: I'm your Great White Hunter for this trip, though I happen to be black.
- I'm a Humanitarian: In the novel only, the team has to constantly avoid a cannibalistic tribe of natives who are at war with the Mobutu government. Partly because they were cannibals, but mostly because Mobutu was a vicious dictator running a People's Republic of Tyranny and he didn't like that said tribe was ignoring him.
- Irony: Dr. Karen Ross pretends she used to work for the CIA but quit. Her "reason" being they're loveless bastards. However, her boss Travis turns out to be a "loveless bastard" because he cares more about the diamonds than the expedition team.
- Jungle Opera: An attempt to update the trope.
- Just a Stupid Accent: Tim Curry speaks the entire time in Vampire Vords.
- Lava Pit
- Maniac Monkeys: The Killer Apes of Zinj.
- Meaningful Name: A herkimer is a fake diamond.
- "Zinj" is a homonym of "singe", the French word for monkey or ape.
- Misplaced Wildlife: American leaf-cutting ants in the Congo (the scene was filmed in Costa Rica).
- Oh Crap: In the novel Munro and his men go to exterminate the killer apes in their lair. They find a group and are preparing to wipe them out when Munro looks up...and realises the entire mountain is swarming with them.
- Offhand Elbow Groin Attack: Happens to a soldier who tries feeling up Karen's hair.
- One-Scene Wonder: Delroy Lindo as Captain Wanta (see Fountain Of Memes entry above).
- Bruce Campbell definitely leaves an impression in the opening.
- Only Mostly Dead: According to the film, the Mizumu have different levels of dead (presumably including catatonia as a condition where the spirit has left the body [death] yet the body still breathes). Only the last level is dead-dead.
- It's this way in the novel too, although the tribe in question there happen to be pygmies.
- Playing Against Type: Would you have guessed that the film's screenwriter also wrote Moonstruck and Doubt?
- Properly Paranoid: Travis in the novel, as corporations are covertly fighting each other the way Cold War intelligence agencies used to. In the movie his paranoia is simply a sign of his general Jerkass nature.
- Protagonist-Centered Morality: At the end of the movie, Dr. Ross destroys her company's satellite in payback for her boss putting the mission above her fiancée. Never mind that this would inevitably cause thousands of people to lose their jobs...
- Though the company was shown as already being in a tailspin and had been for (at the least) months before the events of the movie take place. Most of those thousands likely already had their resumes ready, and many will likely keep their jobs under new ownership as various bits of the company are sold off or taken over.
- Red Shirt: African porters.
- Also Richard. He wasn't even in the novel
- Send in the Search Team
- Stealth Hi Bye: A pair of Mizumu appear at the edge of the camp, and Munro tells Peter not to look at them, as they believe their magic keeps them from being seen before revealing themselves. He goes on to say that there are probably twenty more hiding around the camp, truly out of sight.
- Talking Animal: Amy, thanks to the speaking glove. In the novel she just communicated with sign language.
- Twenty Minutes Into the Future: The novel, which can be disconcerting as it's also set around the collapse of the Amin regime (current events at the time it was written).
- Translator Collar
- Scenery Porn
- Stuff Blowing Up
- Super-Persistent Predator: As Elliott says in the plane, "gorillas aren't dangerous"... but these things certainly are. Because they aren't really predators, but a race of hyper-territorial gorillas bred by the people of Zinj in ancient times so they would eliminate any thief or spy. It's also implied that they are a experiment Gone Horribly Right that caused the very same downfall of the city.
- What Could Have Been: Bruce Campbell originally auditioned for the role of Peter. Having him and Tim Curry sharing the screen would've surely caused the universe to implode.
- ↑ the French language does not distinguish between the two the way the English language does