Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Ridley Scott

Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman, Ray Liotta, Giancarlo Giannini.

It’s been ten years since the thriller Silence Of The Lambs cleaned up at the Oscars, and caused some controversy because of its sympathetic treatment of the character of Hannibal Lecter, a notorious and unrepentant serial killer and cannibal. This much anticipated sequel is unfortunately somewhat disappointing, and falls short of the standard set by the original. However, it will draw its fair share of controversy given the censor’s decision to grant this disturbingly violent film a surprisingly lenient MA rating.

There was a terrific sense of tension between Lecter and Clarice in the original that is lacking here, replaced by an element of extremely graphic violence. And, as the title suggests, the character of Hannibal Lecter is very much front and centre here, while Starling becomes a more passive character. Hannibal also goes a long way to portraying Lecter as a psychopath who only kills people who deserve it, and the film draws a strong contrast between his urbane manners, his culture and erudite articulate manner and the inherent corruptibility and lack of integrity of those he murders.

Heavy weight script writers David Mamet and Oscar winner Stephen Zaillian have stuck reasonably close to Thomas Harris’ original novel with their screen play, although they have managed to alter the book’s controversial ending, which has been publicly cited as one of the reasons that Jodie Foster withdrew from the sequel. Another is that Hannibal is a disturbingly violent and ultimately disappointing film that is not a patch on the original.

When the film opens, Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) is living in Florence under an alias and vying for the position of curator of the museum. Suspicious police officer Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini) is investigating the disappearance of his predecessor and when he discovers Lecter’s true identity he tries to expose him. The battle of wits between Lecter and Pazzi makes for some tense viewing, but it soon gives way to some far more rudimentary and less convincing plotting.

In America, embittered reclusive billionaire Mason Verger (an unrecogniseable Gary Oldman giving another of his creepy, off beat performances), the only survivor amongst Lecter’s victims, is planning a vicious revenge against the good doctor. In collusion with a corrupt Justice Department official (Ray Liotta), Verger sabotages the career of FBI agent Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore), using her as bait to lure Lecter back to America where he plans to feed him to the pigs.

While much has been made of Foster’s absence from the role she made famous, by the end of the film it doesn’t really seem to matter. While Moore may be a strong actress she struggles here to bring any strength to the character. Hopkins however is superb, and brings a palpable menace and strong presence to the character he has virtually made his own. Without his presence, this would be a lesser film.

When original director Jonathan Demme also declined to become involved in this sequel, the job fell to Ridley Scott, who has been welcomed back into the realm of big budget mainstream film making after the commercial success of Gladiator. Scott is a very stylish and visual director, although his command of narrative is not always as assured. The scenes in Florence are certainly beautifully photographed and framed, and underscored with haunting operatic arias. But Scott also seems to deliberately wallow in the gore, and Hannibal lacks the more subtle psychological tension and unrelenting suspense of the original. There are some moments of extremely graphic violence here, and the ludicrous ending is best described as a no-brainer. It also conveniently leaves the way open for yet another sequel, although given author Harris’ low work rate it may be some time before that happens.



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