Hannibal

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“Hannibal” is an unnecessarily gruesome thriller that pales in comparison to its predecessor, “The Silence of the Lambs.”

“Silence” was a horror film whose goriness was justified by the gritty nature of the psychological drama at hand. On-screen gore, in fact, was not abundant; it was mostly the ideas that were awful.

“Hannibal,” on the other hand, has no psychology. It is a horror film that puts all the gore it has to offer right there on the screen, leaving little to be imagined. People don’t just get stabbed and die; they have spurting wounds that leave puddles of blood. Characters don’t have motivations or back-stories; they just do what they do, in big puddles of acting.

The film takes place 10 years after “Silence.” FBI agent Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore, taking over the Jodie Foster role) has just been disgraced after a mishandled drug bust, but is given a chance to re-live her former glory: Hannibal “Cannibal” Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) has been put back on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. Her rapport with him a decade ago, when she got him to help her track down another killer, is legendary. Can she use that to her advantage now to find him?

Lecter, meanwhile, is in Italy, posing as a museum curator. A local cop named Rinaldo Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini) learns who he is — and, more importantly, that there’s a huge reward for his capture. He takes matters into his own hands to capture Lecter. You can guess the rest.

Back in the states, Lecter’s only surviving victim, a now-faceless and grisly Mason Verger (Gary Oldman, uncredited), wants revenge. He’s a millionaire, luckily, and is behind the reward offer. He’s been collecting man-eating wild hogs just for the occasion.

“Hannibal” has virtually no good interaction between Clarice and Hannibal — which means it’s missing what made “Silence” so eerie and intriguing. Moore and Hopkins both act the roles well enough, but the screenplay allows them no quality time together. Hannibal’s protectiveness and creepy respect for Clarice are played up, while her character is reduced to almost nothing.

Oldman is evidently hiding behind the prosthetic face; surely he wouldn’t be such a shameful ham in broad daylight. His character proves to be a non-villain, though, with an anti-climactic story arc. And Ray Liotta’s conniving FBI supervisor Paul Krendler is too prejudiced to be believed.

“Hannibal” is a big movie, with high production values and grand music. Director Ridley Scott tries too hard to lionize Hannibal Lecter, though — a dicey proposition to begin with, since he’s such an evil character. Making a film with him as the main character (and the hero, too) unwisely moves him from the frightening shadows into the garish light of day. Like liver and brains, a little bit of Hannibal Lecter goes a long way. Put too much on your plate, and it’s going to seem bland after a few bites.

C+ (; R, scattered profanity, abundant gruesome.)

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