HANNIBAL (2001)

Review by Derrick Carter

Running Time: 2 hours 11 minutes

MPAA Rating: R for Strong Gruesome Violence, Some Nudity and Language

Hannibal poster

Directed by: Ridley Scott

Written by: David Mamet, Steven Zaillian

(based on the novel HANNIBAL by Thomas Harris)

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

Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter has been in a whole lot of different mediums of horror entertainment: five films (two of which were based on RED DRAGON), four novels, and an amazing new television series. While everybody and their dog totes SILENCE OF THE LAMBS as the best of the Hannibal films, I actually find both HANNIBAL (the sequel) and RED DRAGON (the prequel and remake of MANHUNTER) to be superior to SILENCE in damn near every way. SILENCE OF THE LAMBS is more of a by-the-numbers generic cop thriller, but both HANNIBAL and RED DRAGON are anything but ordinary.

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It’s been ten years since the events in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Clarice Starling has become a hotshot FBI agent and Hannibal Lecter is doing what he does best somewhere in the world. When a drug sting goes horribly wrong, Starling finds herself being disgraced by both the media and her superiors. This is when Mason Verger, the fourth victim of Hannibal’s and one of the very few survivors, comes forward with new evidence of Hannibal’s whereabouts. Clarice is assigned on the case, while Hannibal makes contact with her again. All of this is part of Verger’s intricate revenge plot for Hannibal. In Italy, a chief inspector realizes who Hannibal (using the alias of an art connoisseur) is and begins to track him down for a hefty reward. Different shades of evil, violence and lots of gore ensues.

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Featuring a big name cast, HANNIBAL is one of the sickest and at the same time, most sophisticated serial killer films ever constructed. Anthony Hopkins returns in the title role and while he got a mere 15 minutes in the previous film, he’s much more confident and vicious as the uncaged animal with a taste of class. Julianne Moore makes for a fine replacement of Jodie Foster (who was unable to reprise the role because she was shooting another film at the time).

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Ray Liotta shows up as a dimwitted scumbag official from the Justice Department. Giancarlo Giannini (MIMIC and DARKNESS) delivers one hell of a performance as the Chief Inspector who deeply loves his wife, but slowly loses his humanity as his hunt for Lecter begins to draw to a close. Gary Oldman is unrecognizable as the most despicable person in the movie, Mason Verger. It’s hard to believe that anyone could be more evil than Hannibal, but Oldman plays a child molester who’s missing his face (due to Hannibal forcing him to carve it off and feed it to his dogs). Oldman hides under a six-hour make-up process that makes him quite grotesque and adopts a thick Southern drawl.

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HANNIBAL is professionally constructed as far as cinematography, characters, pacing, and music. It’s a sophisticated horror film for the patient. It’s far from a wall-to-wall splatterfest or a typical slasher/serial killer flick. Rest assured, there are disembowelments, cannibalism, and blood/gore a plenty, but these only come into play when the story calls for them at certain moments. The pacing lets things build up slowly and makes it really pay off when the disturbing violence is shown. The characters are all fleshed out and I felt that Clarice Starling had more development here and was far more fleshed-out than she was as the rookie cop (who we’ve seen in a thousand other cop thrillers) in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.

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The first hour of HANNIBAL is literally build up for the controlled chaos that ensues in the second half. The depraved, but restrained nature of the film make it a force to be reckoned with. Just because the film is so dark and serious doesn’t mean that there are clever shades of pitch-black humor layered throughout, including a rather hilarious moment between Hannibal and Verger when they do come face-to-face (so to speak). The final moments of HANNIBAL close it off in grand form with one of the more disturbing conclusions I’ve seen in a horror movie.

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Apparently the novel HANNIBAL is really over-the-top and ludicrous, so much so that Hopkins wasn’t sure if it would work as a film. Significant changes were made and this movie was considered disappointing by many critics and audience members who adored SILENCE. Don’t let the hatred fool you. Diabolically clever, smartly written, and disturbing beyond belief, HANNIBAL is all of these things. It’s also highly recommended and very underrated!

Grade: A+

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