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Hannibal – 7

Director – Ridley Scott

Cast – Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman, Ray Liotta, Frankie Faison, Giancarlo Giannini, Francesca Neri, Zeljko Ivanek, Hazelle Goodman, David Andrews, Francis Guinan

Release Year – 2001

Reviewed by John of the Dead

The sequel to The Silence of the Lambs, it surprised me that Hannibal was released an entire decade later. Typically sequels are released with the original still fresh in our minds, but I suppose Anthony Hopkins was so darn good in his Oscar-winning performances that filmmakers thought they could cash in on him once again. This time, Hannibal gives Lecter much more screen time and continues the manhunt with a new lead portraying Clarive Starling. It was never going to be as good as its famed predecessor, but this effort is sure to please those who want more of Dr. Lecter’s charismatic mayhem.

With Hannibal Lecter living in exile, the once esteemed FBI Special Agent Clarice Starling is now treated as a disgrace after a colleague causes significant casualties in a botched raid. With the agency railroading her to save face, Dr. Lecter reaches out to Clarice, which in turn makes him a target for a powerful victim of his seeking vengeance.

Just by looking at the credited cast and filmmakers you would expect this to be a tremendous effort. It comes directed by Ridley Scott, who at the time was still reeling in praise for Gladiator. Co-writer Steven Zaillian adapted Shindler’s List – enough said. Lastly, the cast consists of Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman, and Ray Liotta. With names like these you would assume this would be an Oscar contender, but it’s not. In fact I would not even say this is the best in the series, as I enjoyed prequel Red Dragon more. While it may seem like I am dogging the film I promise you I am not, I just…expected better. I expected greatness and was instead treated to “good”.

The film takes off with Clarice Starling’s action-packed fail of a suspect apprehension. It’s not her fault, but the good ole boys she works will don’t mind watching a natural over-achiever, who happens to be female, fall from grace. Much of the first act focuses on Clarice’s troubles, but 24 minutes in we get our first look at the devil of her past, Hannibal. After reaching out to her with a perfume-laced letter, he appears via a surveillance video from a store in Italy. At the 30 minute mark he finally makes his on-screen appearance, when a police detective makes contact with him. To further trouble Clarice’s attempt to bring Hannibal to justice, the detective intrudes on the investigation so that he can claim the 3 million dollar reward for Lecter’s capture. All of this attention brings the eccentric Mason Verger into the game. Verger is a former victim / lover of Hannibal the Cannibal, and his grotesque physical appearance is proof of that. Verger wants his revenge and he will pay handsomely for it. There are so many different elements going on in this film, and they all lead to Lecter. Clarice, dealing with the consequences of Special Agent Paul Krendler’s accusations of wrongdoing, wants him captured the right way. The Italian Inspector, Rinaldo Pazzi, wants the reward money for himself, and Verger is in cahoots with the inspector to have Lecter assassinated by Verger’s hired goons. Despite of the extreme odds against him, Lecter is on top of his game and gives everyone one hell of a fight.

There is plenty of horror written into the film, and unlike The Silence of the Lambs, we get to experience Hannibal commit several murders first-hand. These are not tame murders either, but torturous slow deaths that ridicule the victim as much as they cause physical pain. This effort gives us more of the Hannibal the Cannibal spoken of earlier in the series, and I was glad to see what I had been missing. The horror, first present about half way into the film (58 minutes), never relents and continues until the film’s final sequence that will leave some of you shying away from the screen in disgust.

Director Ridley Scott did very well with this effort, although I feel that I have been hard on him. He directed some of the greatest films all time, including Alien – one of the best horror films ever, so naturally I expected him to exceed what Jonathan Demme did with The Silence of the Lambs. He did not, but he did expand on the horror and I believe that is what matters most. Live gore was employed during the kill sequences, which included a kill that left a victim’s innards exposed for screaming spectators to see. The kills are full-frontal and Scott, along with the film’s two writers, did not why away from the violence. You would expect good performances from the notable actors involved, and to no surprise their performances were top notch. Obviously Anthony Hopkins stole the show, with Gary Oldman stealing thunder from Julianne Moore. Ray Liotta’s role was miniscule but he did well at portraying an asshole. I enjoyed the atmosphere here but the 10-year difference displayed the difference in film quality. The graininess from The Silence of the Lambs is gone and we are instead treated to a crisper image. This may seem minimal, but it did have a direct effect on the atmosphere. Thankfully, Scott still delivered a moody, dark, shadowy feel that makes this especially fun to watch with the lights off, which you should already be doing anyway with horror films.

Overall, Hannibal is a solid sequel to one of the most notable horror films there is. While high expectations will most likely not be met, this effort makes up for any shortcomings with great horror, awesome performances, and an engaging story that comes very well written and directed.

Rating: 7/10

…Additional Stills…

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