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HANNIBAL(director: Ridley Scott; screenwriters: David Mamet/Steven Zaillian/based on the novel by Thomas Harris; cinematographer: John Mathieson; editor: Pietro Scalia; cast: Anthony Hopkins (Hannibal Lecter), Julianne Moore (Clarice Starling), Ray Liotta (Paul Krendler), Giancarlo Giannini (Rinaldo Pazzi), Frankie R. Faison (Barney), Francesca Neri (Allegra Pazzi), Gary Oldman (Mason Verger), Zeljko Ivanek (Dr. Cordell Doemling), Hazelle Goodman (Evelda Drumgo), David Andrews (FBI Agent Pearsall); Runtime: 131; MGM; 2001)
“What can you say, but sometimes you try something new and it just doesn’t taste right!”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The long awaited sequel to “The Silence of the Lambs” has arrived with a new director for Jonathan Demme — Ridley Scott (“Gladiator”), and a new star actress for Clarice Starling (Jodi Foster bowed out) — Julianne Moore. The production also changed screenwriters, as David Mamet’s script was rejected and his script was replaced by Steven Zaillian’s. What remains constant, is that Anthony Hopkins is still up to his old eating habits as Hannibal Lecter.

The film is stylistically pleasing to the eye. Its serial killer scenes are excessive, but they do allow for comedy to soften the blows and, also, since all the victims were not particularly nice people, watching them being mutilated was made more bearable.

The film can be divided into three parts and all with different results. The film’s opening is meticulously choreographed, showing in detail how a police bust can go sour. The film’s second part taking place in Italy, is brilliantly conceived and acted; it is the heart of the film, with its visual effects matching its dialogue and storytelling. Though even this part of the film has its faults, as some scenes will drag on for far too long, allowing a tedium to creep into the story. The last part, when back in the Washington, DC area, is a total gross-out, that brings the film down to a mundane, campy level, as bad taste takes over, making for a very sloppy and exploitative surprise ending.

Overall, this sequel didn’t live up to the high pulp standards of the original, but it was still successful in being a technically superior cinematic happening and the quality of the acting was always first-rate. Hopkins’s riveting performance is interlaced with wit and a sense of the genteel, though it also comes with some over-the-top moves (though there are no slurping tongue sounds when he goes into his cannibalistic mode as in the original). The vulnerable persona that Moore ably brought to her role, much like Foster played it, keyed in on her fight with male authority figures who can’t accept her because she’s so different from them. What got left out in this version was her mental chess game with Lecter.

The most underrated performance in the film is Giancarlo Giannini’s as Italian detective Pazzi. His greedy character is clearly drawn out. He is someone desperately trying to achieve redemption for his failures in life, so much so that he’s willing to sell his soul to the Devil to hold onto his trophy wife (Neri) and also to show his superiors that he is capable of more than what they think.

The film opens with FBI Special Agent Clarice Starling working with local Washington, DC police to apprehend a dangerous female felon (Goodman), who is wanted on drug charges. Clarice’s career, since her initial success with the Hannibal case, has been spiraling downwards of late and because this arrest results in a bloody shootout, she is unfairly blamed for it and called on the carpet by her male FBI bosses. Leading the charge against her is a self-serving U.S. justice official, someone who was once an agent in her department and made sexual advances which she rejected, Paul Krendler (Ray Liotta). He has now been assigned to team up with her to find the whereabouts of the escaped serial killer, Hannibal Lecter. Clarice has just received a letter from Lecter, which she traces to Florence, Italy. A wealthy, homosexual victim of Hannibal’s, Mason Verger (an unbilled Gary Oldman), who had his face ripped apart by him and is now disfigured and has the distinction of being the only one of Lecter’s victims to have survived, learns of this letter and meets with Clarice. And since he has enough money to buy influence in Washington, he gets the FBI to put her on the case. He intends to use her as a lure so that his own hired men can bring Hannibal to him, as he plans to get his vengeance.

In Florence, an Italian detective, Rinaldo Pazzi, has uncovered that the person posing as the newly-appointed art curator is Lecter and that he’s on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list, and that Mason Verger is offering a $3 million reward. He forgets his policeman’s oath and greedily tries to bring Hannibal to Verger, with the help of Verger’s men. But, he underestimates Hannibal’s cunning ability and pays dearly for his poor judgment.

In the climactic scenes Hannibal comes back to the States, and his long-anticipated meeting with Clarice takes place — which turns out to be a fizzle, or a real lame-brained idea on how to put a twist in the plot that becomes unnecessarily twisted. The film, that was faithful to Thomas Harris’ novel until this point, now goes off on Ridley Scott’s own direction and it becomes an absurd mess. All its good work is nearly eaten away by the director’s bad instincts. What can you say, but sometimes you try something new and it just doesn’t taste right!


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”