2001 - R - 130 Mins.
|Director: Ridley Scott
|Producer: Dino De Laurentiis, Edward Saxon, Martha De Laurentiis, Ridley Scott
|Written By: David Mamet, Steven Zallian
|Starring: Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Francesca Neri, Giancarlo Giannini, Ray Liotta
|Review by: David Trier
A sequel should never be expected to be as good as the original. Only two things should be mandatory in a sequel: it must pay homage to the first film, that is, remind us why we liked it enough to want more and it must teach us more about the characters we loved, their roots and their destinations. Hannibal fails to achieve either of these goals and instead offers us a film plentiful with gore and void of terror.
The film starts with an awesome display of special effects as Jodie Foster mutates into Julianne Moore as Agent Starling. Ambushed in the most poorly organized drug bust I have ever seen, she is forced into suspension by her slimey superior (Ray Liotta). She is then contacted by Mason Verger (Gary Oldman), one of Dr. Lecter's (Sir Anthony Hopkins) first victims. Having been drugged by his psychiatrist and convinced to rip off his face and feed it to his dogs, he was left looking damn ugly. Verger, being the wealthy son of a politician, has devoted what remains of his life and money to finding and punishing Lecter (apparently, instead of getting good reconstructive surgery). By getting Starling involved, he believes, and rightly so, he will get Lecter in his grasp a lot quicker. Meanwhile the cannibal conveniently named Hannibal by his psychic hip-hopping parents, has been hiding out posing as a curator of the Palazzo Vecchio library in Italy. When detective Rinaldo Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini) comes to ask him some questions about the disappearance of Lecter's predecessor, he soon discovers Hannibal's face on the FBI ten most wanted list. Hoping to cash in on the tremendous reward so as to please his beautiful-butted wife (Francesca Neri), Pazzi attempts to trap him. While at the same time being tracked by Verger's henchmen, Lecter decides to return to America, where human flesh is manufactured and distributed for today's fast-paced capitalist market. After taunting Starling a bit, he is finally captured by Verger's men. Starling, for reasons beyond human comprehension, wants to save Lecter so as to lock him up... hilarity ensues.
This is a bad movie on so many levels. There are only a few things in it worth praise and here they are. Italian actor Giancarlo Giannini delivers a moving and powerful performance as Pazzi. He's been in over 100 film and television productions (mostly Italian) since the 1960s and having seen him here for the first time, I can tell why. Anthony Hopkins, although clearly doing this movie for the money (or to keep Freddie Prinze Jr. from playing Lecter), has always demanded attention on the big screen and here is no exception. Julianne Moore does the best she can, which is pretty decent, with an Agent Starling whose actions defy logic. The special effects, although mostly more visceral versions of things we've seen before, are pretty decent. And to be fair, there are a few cinematic moments where you're genuinely held in tension. They quickly dissipate however. And, making the film almost (ALMOST) worth renting are the acting talents of the biggest f**king man-eating hairy pigs I have ever seen.
Unless you count a few tracking shots of Agent Starling running in the woods, Hannibal does not pay homage to The Silence of the Lambs. Silence had a lot going for it to make it a successful picture. It had a murder mystery that slowly unfolded with a multi-layered investigation for one thing. Hannibal has no mystery since we always know where Hannibal is and what he's doing and everyone else pretty much knows but isn't sure what to do about it. Silence had a real movie monster, who was not the one doing evil, but the one whose occasional presence was so disturbing, he became the icon. As Hannibal is onscreen more often than not, he becomes the annoying wisecracking nuisance that kills people. It's the difference between Pinhead's five minutes in the first Hellraiser where Uncle Frank was the monster versus Pinhead in Helraiser III where he's always running about and hurting people - much less intimidating. In Silence, we learn tons about the inner-workings of our protagonist, but in Hannibal we are offered no new information (other than that she might be dumber than we thought). Same goes for Dr. Lecter who still has no explanation for his evil. A sequel should at the very least hint at his origins, for without this information, you can't beat a horror-movie monster and if you can't beat him, what's the point in chasing him? And what is the point anyway? Hannibal doesn't offer us any insight into the mind of a killer or the mind of a detective. And if we're left in the end feeling dumber than at the beginning, why have the movie at all?
Major flaws in logic: Am I the only person in the audience that noticed that Starling shoots and kills three people while trying to save Lecter? What the hell kind of sense does that make? And, as any horror fan knows, anyone who sits in the dark for hours listening to tapes of the monster speak DESERVES TO DIE PAINFULLY. There is little to explain how a man as easily recognizable and famous as Hannibal Lecter can just meander about the world without being noticed and how he supports himself so richly when even a working psychiatrist doesn't make millions! There is one weak attempt I suppose. In one scene we see him steal a credit card bill from someone's house and use it to buy dishes for a cannibal banquet he's been planning. The owner comes home and is quite surprised to see the changes. Now what the hell kind of crappy credit plan does he have where the company doesn't call you to verify a sudden several thousand dollar purchase of plates and saucers?! But apparently Hannibal can fly without changing uniform in a phone booth because he kills a man in full view of about a hundred people and gets away by... using the back door? Although a part of us wants to see Verger have his revenge on Lecter, it's only ever half-heartedly. The guy, sad as it may be, did cut off his own face. Other things that would be forgiveable in a better movie include the fact that Verger doesn't seem to have any lips so how does he say words with the letters "p" and "f" and apparently everyone in Italy speaks English (only with an accent). I hate that.
There's nothing wrong with being plentiful on the gore, but sometimes like in, oh say, The Silence of the Lambs for example, it's what we don't see that freaks us out. I know this slam may have seemed a bit harsh, but honestly, they had ten years, this should have been a better movie.