Published on April 5th, 2013 | by Clint Davis
Summary: Hannibal is a well-made but clunky thriller that goes for low-hanging shocks rather than the subtle mood of its predecessor.
R | 131 min.
Director: Ridley Scott | Screenplay: David Mamet & Steven Zallian (based on Thomas Harris’s novel)
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Ray Liotta
Studio: Scott Free Productions | Distribution: MGM / Universal Pictures
If you’re looking for a spiritual successor to Jonathan Demme’s masterpiece The Silence of the Lambs, look elsewhere. Going into 2001’s sequel Hannibal with those expectations will only leave you bitter by the end of the night.
A simple scan of the credits will tell you this movie is a different breed. Gone are names like Demme, Jodie Foster, and screenwriter Ted Tally and in their place are marquee stuffers like Ridley Scott, Julianne Moore, and David Mamet–plus, throw in supporting roles from Ray Liotta and (an uncredited) Gary Oldman and your mouth may start to water!
…until you see what’s on the menu.
Hannibal is what happens when only a few members of a great band get together to record a follow-up record to their decade-old smash. This film tries way too hard to shock its audience instead of simply letting the talent do their jobs in telling an interesting story.
The plot picks up ten years following the events of The Silence of the Lambs with famed FBI agent Clarice Starling (Moore) now under investigation for a botched drug bust-turned shootout in public. With Starling suspended from official duty, she receives a tip on the whereabouts of serial killer Hannibal Lecter (Hopkins), who is now living under an assumed name in Italy. Meanwhile, an Italian investigator named Rinaldo Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini) foolishly decides to take Lecter on himself while Starling conducts a manhunt of her own.
My problem with Hannibal is that where its predecessor took a sophisticated, character-driven approach to telling a pitch-black story–this movie constantly goes for the low-hanging fruit.
Since Julianne Moore is replacing Jodie Foster in the protagonist’s role, it feels like a totally new character rather than our old friend Clarice. This is where the screenplay should have taken time to re-introduce us to her rather than expect us to feel the same connection renewed at the start of the film. This is frankly not fair to a great actress like Moore because her entire performance feels more like an impression of Foster than an interpretation of the character.
Hopkins remains brilliantly creepy as Lecter and the best new addition is Giancarlo Giannini, who makes us genuinely care for his inspector Pazzi until (spoiler alert!) he’s “hanged” out to dry only halfway through the movie.
Comparisons with the ‘Hannibal Lecter’ series’s other installments are impossible not to make–what made The Silence of the Lambs such a chilling movie was the thought of Lecter eating people. You didn’t need to see him carving off flesh, dipping it in butter, and devouring it–in fact, that would have dulled the scare factor. Hannibal throws subtlety out the window by constantly reminding you onscreen that its title character is a cannibal. doing everything except including an edible human ear with the special edition DVD!
As far as scares go, the movie feature some lasting images–most notably the hideous makeup on Gary Oldman as Lecter’s only surviving victim. Also, as gratuitous and campy as this film’s final scenes are, they are surely memorable even if it’s due to the laughs they elicit.
On its own, Hannibal is a well-made and beautifully-scored horror entry but following in the footsteps of its elegant predecessor–it’s left standing in the shadow with a messy blood stain on its goofy grin.