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Hannibal (A Movie Review)

Updated: May 25, 2020




Starring Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Giancarlo Giannini, Gary Oldman, Ray Liotta, Frankie R. Faison, Francesca Neri, Zeljko Ivanek, Hazelle Goodman, David Andrews and Francis Guinan.

Screenplay by Steven Zaillian and David Mamet.

Directed by Ridley Scott.

Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures.   131 minutes.   Rated R.

A lot of people said that Jodie Foster and director Jonathan Demme were crazy for bailing out on this sure-fire hit sequel to The Silence of the Lambs. Well, they’re both looking pretty smart right about now. Now it’s the rest of us that have to put up with this wasted opportunity.

Hannibal isn’t the worst horror film ever… even this winter… but we expected so much more. After all, it has a hot director in Ridley Scott (fresh from his over-rated spectacle Gladiator), a screenplay co-written by David Mamet, arguably the best writer of this generation. There’s an Academy Award caliber cast featuring Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Ray Liotta and Gary Oldman (well, okay, Oldman’s overacting hasn’t been an asset to a film in many years, but it once was…)

The problem is very simple, this very well-made and acted film simply forgets every single thing that made the original film work. The Silence of the Lambs was horrifying for what it didn’t show, not what it showed. You almost never actually saw a violent act in that film, and yet it was amazingly creepy. Hannibal is almost wall-to-wall disgusting gore, but instead of horror it mostly inspires revulsion and frankly a near-comic disbelief. The eating of human brains isn’t scary, it’s a geek show.

It was also a mistake to let Hannibal Lecter run free. Most of his power as a villain was how dangerous he was as a caged animal.  Walking amongst Italian museums and piazzas in a dandyish suit with a middle-aged paunch, he doesn’t seem like an unstoppable force of evil.  He seems like Tom Wolfe moonlighting as a serial killer.

Julianne Moore is a fine actress and does what she can with the character of Clarice Starling, but frankly the character is way too closely connected to Foster to allow her any chance to pull it off. An almost unrecognizably made-up Gary Oldman is his normal way-over-the-top villain… Have you ever heard the word subtlety, Gary?

All in all, Hannibal is a misfire on all levels. Congratulations, Jodie Foster, you sure called it right by avoiding this one. (2/01)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2001  All rights reserved. Posted: February 9, 2001.

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