HANNIBAL

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The Silence of the Lambs
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AN ESSAY
HANNIBAL - 2001
USA Release: Feb. 9, 2001
MGM
Rated: Argentina, Brazil, Netherlands: 16 / Australia, USA: R / Chile, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, UK: 18 / Finland: K-18 / France: 12 /Hong Kong: III / New Zealand: R18 / Portugal: M/16 / Singapore: NC-16 / Sweden: 15

If Silence was golden, Hannibal is bronze.

For 5'4", Jodie Foster casts one hell of a shadow.

Not that there aren't enough top names involved in HANNIBAL that it shouldn't have been a worthy successor to THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. There's Sir Anthony Hopkins reprising the title role (DRACULA [1992]), Gary Oldman (DRACULA [1992]) in a supporting role, a David Mamet script based on the Thomas Harris novel, and Ridley Scott (ALIEN) directing. Somehow, though, the whole is less than the sum of its parts.

HANNIBAL follows Agent Starling's FBI career 10 years after her apprehension of serial killer Buffalo Bill, to the messy streets of the Washington D.C.'s drug war. Starling's role in a raid gone bad (fifteen minutes of cartoon violence, fast forward...you won't miss anything) drives the media to rake her name through the mud.

Enter Mason Verger (Oldman), Lecter's only surviving victim and one grotesquely disfigured rich guy. Hannibal's run-in with Verger has left him looking like a cross between Dr. Phibes and a muppet, and sounding like Mike Myers as Dr. Evil. Understandably miffed, Verger puts a price on Lecter's head, and uses his wealth to influence the FBI to re-open the search. This brings us the hopelessly-miscast Ray Liotta (UNFORGETTABLE) doing his best at playing the leering, slimey, one-dimensional Mr. Finch--er, I mean Paul Krendler. To deflect the media flack from the drug raid gone awry, Krendler re-assigns Starling (oh, yeah, played by Julianne Moore: LOST WORLD: Jurassic Park II) to pick up the trail.

The search leads to Italy, where some of the best filmed shots in HANNIBAL take place. Giancarlo Giannini (MIMIC) shines as an Italian lawman eager to collect the bounty on Lecter, and Scott's exquisite filming of Florence mesmerizes. But the ensuing action breaks the spell as we get lost in a Lecter/Starling cat-and-mouse game that pales in comparison to the tete-a-tetes of Silence.

Where Silence's drama drove on the exploration of fully evolved characters and edge-of-your seat suspense, HANNIBAL relies solely on violence and gore. And even at its yuckiest, HANNIBAL's gore stretches little beyond images you could find 30 years ago in a Hammer Frankenstein film.

Under any other circumstances the performances and Scott's slick direction might be enough to carry this film on its own. But HANNIBAL crumbles under the weighty expectations created by its far superior predecessor, yielding my rather merciful . . . two Shriek Girls.


This review copyright 2001 E.C.McMullen Jr.

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