Projections - Movie Reviews

Hannibal Hannibal

Engrossing and gross are words to describe Hannibal, the eagerly awaited follow-up to Jonathan Demme's multiple award winning The Silence of the Lambs.  The psychological interaction between the hugely creepy and supremely diabolical Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter and Special FBI Agent Clarice Starling, done with seductive chilling grace by Anthony Hopkins and inner torment by Jodie Foster in the original, falls short here with Hopkins back to "break the silence" with Julianne Moore (The End of the Affair, Magnolia) taking over for Foster as the ten year veteran who has gained notoriety by recording the most killings for an FBI agent.  Ridley Scott brings a lavish touch to the proceedings as he widens the scope over two continents and, though it may overwhelm the complexities of Hannibal, Hopkins' invitation to an old, terrifying but sly and witty friend, remains potent.

Based on Thomas Harris' 1999 bestseller, the script worked on by David Mamet and revised by Steven Zaillian (Schindler's List) had to be bluntly retooled in the climactic dinner at a lakeside house to keep the bizarre, perverse love story from becoming too reprehensible.  A strange Valentine's Day date movie to say the least, Hannibal lives for its memorable kiss and Scott's sweeping tale is more digestible, if conventional than Harris' mesmerizing, if gratuitous tome.

Early on Scott stages a drug bust with Clarice forced to kill a dealer - a hard-edged mother with an infant strapped to her chest.  Moore lets us see the Special Agent's tearful remorse.  The bad publicity for the FBI gets Starling suspended by her Justice Department boss Paul Krendler, an unsympathetic Ray Liotta, who doesn't get along with the woman who made it big with the case of Hannibal Lecter, MD.

The disfigured American billionaire, Mason Verger (an uncredited Gary Oldman), one who hasn't succumbed to one of Lecter's feeding frenzies, plans to avenge Lecter's hypnosis which resulted in the known child molester's self mutilation.  His nasty, torturous scheme involves keeping the good doctor on an IV drip while wild boars get a bountiful meal from the toes up.  In his enormous estate and bound by a wheelchair, the facially deformed Verger knows how to get Hannibal out of hiding.

In the chilling blue shots of Gladiator photographer John Mathieson, Scott creates his best tension when in Italy as Lecter is seen in Florence as a curator primed to take over a prestigious academic position with the coincidental disappearance of the previous scholar.  Giancarlo Gianni, as the bounty hunter Detective Pazzi, presents an emotionally wrought man who is caught in the dynamic of Verger, Lecter, and Starling.  The malicious mastermind recreates ancestral deaths in a dastardly fashion which refer to the traitorous Judas Iscariot.

Near the last act, Scott returns the action to the States with more methodical direction though his close following of Harris' novel may have a lip-smacking twist for some.  Before that, Krendler is known to be linked to Verger, and they are key to uniting the dogged Clarice and the urbane "Mr. Death" who surreptitiously knows how to harness violence to the most grotesque degrees.

Scott uses jump cutting and works with his editors to generate some manner of restraint from protracted gruesome sequences except when it all comes up to a cranial high, but defecating point.

Nevertheless, those who enjoyed Hopkins' recent work with Julie Taymore in Titus will find this omnipotent, dark villain very intriguing once again.  Moore displays the vulnerabilities within an empowered agent, who finds redeeming qualities in the sickest of minds.

Though Scott exceeds viewer expectation from his wondrous locations ranging from Florence's Palazzo Vecchio to the former Montpelier estate of James Madison where a barn is used hog wild, the designs and cat and mouse story with Hans Zimmer's classical score is a crass dish served up as an operatic duet; a "Beauty and the Beast" to die for.


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