Director: Ridley Scott
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Ray Liotta, Giancarlo Giannini, Frankie R. Faison
MPAA Rating: (for strong gruesome violence, some nudity and language)
Running Time: 2:11
Release Date: 2/9/01
Review by Mark Dujsik
Warning: Contains Spoilers
Hannibal Lecter is truly one of the great film characters. How he got involved in this mess is a mystery. Hannibal is one of the most gruesome films Iíve seen, yet the gore isnít what disturbed me. What really disturbed me was the lack of a satisfying third act.
The movie starts out with an impressive shoot-out. Clarice Starling (now Julianne Moore), who we remember so fondly from The Silence of the Lambs, has been with the FBI for ten years now. Sheís more cynical, which we can see in a conversation with the DC police, and she has also lost all the qualities we loved about her in the previous film. So when the shoot-out goes wrong, Clarice is reduced to working in a basement and being harassed by a very loathsome FBI official by the name of Paul Krendler (Ray Liotta). Eventually she gets a letter from the dear Dr. Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) and starts putting that basement to good use.
Meanwhile, Lecter is living the good life in Florence with no one the wiser. That is until a local police officer named Pazzi (a very good Giancarlo Giannini) catches on to his true identity. The cat-and-mouse chase that ensues has the makings of an exceptional follow-up, but, alas, the movie doesnít stay on the right track.
Meanwhile (this is the last one, I swear), the only of Lecterís victims to survive is plotting a fiendish scheme to pay back the good doctor. Mason Verger (an uncredited actor in a truly revolting performance) is the most psychologically and physically repulsive character in the movie. Starling visits the man, who relates the story of his disfigurement at the hands of Lecter. In this sequence lies one of the major flaws of the movie. We are shown in flashback the graphic details, and nothing is left to the imagination. I am reminded of a scene in Silence of the Lambs where the doctor in charge of the jail where Lecter is confined shows Starling a picture of a nurse who was attacked by Lecter. We donít see the picture, but the lighting changes to a harsh red, Starlingís face drops, and the doctor says, "His pulse never dropped below 80, even when he ate her tongue. That scene was more terrifying and disturbing than anything in Hannibal, because the human imagination can conceive of the most horrifying images possible. We donít need to see it. Iím left wondering how that scene would have played out with only Vergerís face and voice.
Verger is after Hannibal and has a decent revenge plotted out for him. He has a reward set for anyone with information leading to his capture. The Florence cop learns this and begins his own personal manhunt. As I said, the movie would have been successful had it followed through with this setup. Unfortunately, the movie loses a lot of speed and believability after Pazzi loses his guts. The third act is so absurd, any credibility the movie had disappears like a census taker knocking on Lecterís door.
I like Ridley Scott as a director. He has an eye for environments, whether past, present, or future. He does a good job keeping the pacing, especially in the Florence scenes, but he has taken a thankless job. Iím sure many a director could have done as well as he does, but he should be commended for the attempt.
Hopkins is one of my favorite actors, and seeing him on the screen is always a joy. His Lecter is given a new dimension in this movie, but I donít think it was a wise idea to reveal it. In the previous film, we knew Lecter was violent, but we liked him because he was charming. The charm is still there, but itís difficult to like a man who removes the top of another manís skull and feeds him his own brain. Julianne Moore does what she can with her role, even though Starling has turned into a one-dimensional character.
Had the third act been rewritten and the gore made less of a spectacle, Hannibal may have made a decent film. Instead, we have a movie that tries as hard as it can, but, with its flaws, can never push itself to entertain.
Copyright © 2001 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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