HANNIBAL (2001) 

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Anthony Hopkins
Julianne Moore
Giancarlo Giannini
Ray Liotta
Gary Oldman
Zeljko Ivanik
Francesca Neri
David Andrews
Frankie Faison

Ridley Scott



Original Novel

Time: 139 mins.
Rating: R
Genre: Horror/Drama/Action

I have to say the main reason I wanted to see HANNIBAL was Anthony Hopkins. He's a brilliant actor and I figured despite the gripes people had about the book, he wouldn't make a movie, much less a sequel, if he didn't think the script was up to snuff. Plus, I believe that Julianne Moore is one of the best actresses of her generation and I was curious to see if she could adequately fill Jodie Foster's very talented shoes. Well...what I can say is that Hopkins and Moore had me riveted to my seat, both giving powerful, on-pitch performances. As for the rest of the production, I was more than sorely disappointed. There was no suspense – you knew going in that she'd find him, that he wouldn't harm her and that people would die – and way, way, way too much unnecessary gore. Most of which I didn't see because I had my eyes closed.

Unlike SEVEN, which was gross beyond belief but had a point, there was no real reason for Ridley Scott to be this consistently gruesome. I'm sure the book was worse, but that still doesn't mean I want to see this stuff. I understand the kind of film this is, Hannibal is a cannibal after all, but it just seemed excessive compared to the first film. I guess it would have been more acceptable if the story was the least bit surprising. Moore does a great job as Clarice Starling, an exceptional FBI agent, resented by her peers for always doing the right thing. You feel her fear and integrity as she scrapes along trying to expose the evils of the world. On some level she respects Lector because at least he's honest, killing those who deserve to die – generally the rude, greedy or stupid. There are days I can't blame him.

Though he's absolutely diabolical, you don't hate Hannibal since he's the most civilized and intelligent person in the picture. You also know he respects Clarice, is maybe even in love with her, so you don't have to worry about her fate when it comes to him. Therefore, one needs a decent bad guy to create fear and anxiety. This film tries to give us two: Mason Verger (Oldman), one of Lector's victims who's extremely deformed and out for revenge; and Paul Krendler (Liotta), a senator want-to-be who holds Clarice's professional fate in his hands and wishes it was her body. Both use Clarice to try to get what they want, but neither of them is even remotely up to the task of taking on the brilliant Dr. Lector. Their machinations are ridiculous and clumsy and not worth the time we have to sit through them.

"Are you by any chance trying to trace my whereabouts, you naughty girl?"

Clearly, Verger has the better reason for trying to hunt down Hannibal, but his idea of payback is the most ludicrous thing I have ever seen in a motion picture. Giant killer pigs may have sounded scary on paper, but the execution is laughable. Lector targets Krendler because he's been mean to Clarice, but he's mainly just a chauvinistic pig with grand pretensions. She could kick his ass in her sleep. We're supposed to feel sorry for him when Hannibal decides to help Clarice by removing this particular professional hindrance, however, this sequence is so over-the-top disgusting and useless, I could barely watch a moment of it. Krendler is so obviously beneath either of their time, I just wanted Hannibal to gut him and get it over with. The real conflict comes between Clarice and Hannibal since it's clear that she's not going to let him get away without a fight. She doesn't want him dead, just off the streets. Moore and Hopkins have a wonderful dynamic, but unfortunately it takes almost the entire film to get them onscreen together.

The first two-thirds of the picture have Clarice digging for clues as to Lector's whereabouts, which would have been interesting if we didn't already know where he was. The story tries to add suspense by having an Italian inspector, played by Giancarlo Giannini, hinder her efforts by keeping Lector's location to himself so he can collect Verger's reward and give his beautiful young wife the life she deserves. The problem here is that this mediocre cop is no match for Lector and quickly finds himself in way over his head and in danger for his life. Conversely, all we get to see Clarice doing is listening to old tapes of her and Lector's conversations and digging through files. She should be the one in the driver's seat, on the edge of the action, not some random fellow, no matter how charming. Then instead of having Clarice hunt Hannibal down, he practically falls in her lap trying to protect her and her future. It certainly adds to their personal dynamic, but it's just a little too easy. She's a smart and capable woman. Give her something worthwhile to do. Moore plays the tough and vulnerable sides equally well and gives Hopkins a run for his money. She's just as good as Foster in the role. Frankly, I think her accent work is even better.

As mediocre as the script is, the rest of the production holds up pretty well. The music is evocative and perfectly composed, the cinematography decent but nothing exciting and the direction fairly ho-hum when one consider Scott's last film; however, it all works together to produce an enjoyable film. If you're a fan of SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and want to catch up with your old friends, then you'll probably like most of HANNIBAL. It takes a while to really get going, but for the most part holds your interest. After all the gore in GLADIATOR, which for the most part was justified, I think Scott just didn't know how to pull back and deliver a straightforward thriller that relied more on suspense than shock value. Hannibal may be a cold-blooded killer, but at least he has class and intelligence, something sorely lacking in this sequel. Moore and Hopkins were worth the price of admission, but I won't be returning to this version again. With most people concerned about the casting, perhaps there should have been an equal number worried about the script. The next time Jodie Foster turns something down, I'm going to think twice about plunking down my hard earned money at the box office.

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