Hannibal (2001)

HANNIBAL is a hoot.  Though an underwater golf game (you know... 
sub par), the long-in-coming sequel to THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS is 
still a gross-out gas.  (Or, if you prefer a more high brow-sound-
ing description, an "exuberant celebration of graphic morbidity.")  
Anthony Hopkins returns to the Oscar-earning title role, his char-
acter finally a *starring* character after keen supporting turns in 
both LAMBS and (director) Michael Mann's earlier MANHUNTER.  (That 
one with Brit Brian Cox as the cordial madman.)  Julianne Moore has 
replaced Jodie Foster, however, as the plucky, now-seasoned (and 
rather sad-seeming) FBI special agent Clarice Starling.  Ten years 
later and she's still piquing Lecter's interest, presently through 
well-publicized career difficulties-- problems soon to be exacer-
bated by disfigured billionaire Mason Verger, one of Lecter's old 
victims and the only one still alive.  (If you can call it that.)

Played by Someone Famous under gobs of gruesome make-up-- and sans 
screen credit!-- the revenge-seeking ex-pedophile has a contact in 
the Justice Department, so he'll have Starling harassed, so Lecter 
will hopefully reveal himself.  (Verger's ultimate goal is capture, 
then torture.  See SNATCH for more details on the planned method.)  
Turns out the Good Doctor is alive and well (though inexplicably 
not well-disguised) and living in Florence, Italy, indulging his 
expensive tastes while pouring over old books.  (He seems particu-
larly interested in noose-related activities of centuries past.)  
So, all sorts of nastiness ensues as the various characters-- in-
cluding an opportunistic Italian detective (Giancarlo Giannini)-- 
try to intercept You Know Who.  Blood begins flowing like wine and, 
before it's all over, we'll witness hangings, flayings, stabbings, 
slashings, some chewing-of-flesh, one stringy evisceration, and a 
bit of "business" involving a living cadaver.  (Consider bringing 
smelling salts if you're prone...)

Though the book is grand, Grand Guignol-- and an entirely different 
medium, so why bother comparing, right?--  the film version is con-
siderably less satisfying.  At least on first viewing.  It's dull 
at times and more than a *little* incomprehensible.  (Can't image 
what sense non-readers are gonna make of it)  And one of the stars  
isn't worth the trouble taken to cast them (more on that later).  
All *that* said, HANNIBAL's still bonafide blast.  Lush, leering, 
wickedly funny, obscenely ornate, and handsomely handsome, 'cause 
the director is Ridley Scott (GLADIATOR) and his movies always look 
good.  The amount of gore is atypical of him, however.  Though 
infrequent, the jaw-dropping blood-letting-- like Lecter feeding 
freshly peeled flesh to a dog-- is potentially problematic.  When 
combined with the film's not-quite-self-serious tone and some lip-
smacking scenery-chewing, the result is a faint, but unmistakable 
(and probably unavoidable) Eau de Mystery Science Theater.  (So, 
did your audience giggle or wince?)

Alas, a bigger problem is the film's difficulty at getting from 
point A to point B.  Maybe it's 'cause of an overstuffed script-- 
credited to David Mamet and Steven Zaillian-- but a regrettable 
number of scenes are oddly hollow or outright botches.  Like the 
confusing stakeout-turned-shoot out at the film's beginning.  (And 
why is a drag queen carrying a baby?)  Don't know who was driving 
at the time, but such scenes *barely* communicate the importance 
(or relevant emotion) of the particular character or situation.  
Happily, this head-scratch-ing isn't nearly as distracting on re-
peated viewing, so you can savor Anthony Hopkins even *more*.  As 
expected, the Oscar-winning actor is the film's MVP.  He's so com-
fortable in the role that you dare not avert your glance, for fear 
of missing some brief wink or subtle nod.  His voice is simultane-
ously smooth, silky, and soaked in menace; his eyes, hollow expres-
sions of madness, brilliance, and ready anger.  Like a pit bull 
laying in wait.  Or lying, if he's not telling the truth.  And, 
really, can anyone else lick an envelope as salaciously as he?  

Hopkins makes HANNIBAL a must see and certainly compensates for the 
comparatively miscast Julianne Moore.  She's a good actress, sure, 
but looks uncomfortable and out-of-place.  She conveys *none* of 
the necessary emotion needed to better-believe their decade-later 
cat-and-mousing.  And, worst-est, speaks with a drawl that's nei-
ther believable nor understandable.  (I certainly missed a number 
of her lines...)  The other major players are better, like Ray Li-
otta's slimy, sexist Paul Krendler.  And the Famous Cackling Actor 
Under Make-Up, who has a high time impersonating (the voice of) 
Jimmy Stewart.  (At that's what it sounds like to *this* critic...)
Now, for fans of the book, the ending *has* been changed.  Not the 
dinner-table specifics; instead, it's the relationship between Lec-
ter and Starling that takes a twist.  Plus a couple additions, like 
a meeting between the two at Union Station, and numerous, necessary 
cuts.  Lecter's little sister, Verger's lesbian sister, the Doctor 
elbow-to-elbow with the Great Unwashed on an airplane (well, kinda 
cut), etc.  But everything else is still there.  Avarice.  Hanging.  
Self-destruction.  What more could you ask for?  Ta ta.  (Rated 
"R"/131 min.)
Grade: B-

Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros 
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

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Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros -Movie Hell™ is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros