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#224 - Hannibal
Ridley Scott, 2001

Ten years after the events of The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal Lecter is hiding out in Italy but his safety is threatened by one of his former victims, a deranged millionaire who will stop at nothing to find him.

I managed to read three novels that featured the infamously cultured and violent Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter - this includes Hannibal, the sequel that sees Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) free from prison and hiding out in Florence. The book hasn't got a particularly good reputation and reading it didn't do all that much to make me think otherwise, though I considered the possibility that Ridley Scott might be able to make something worthwhile out of it. Unfortunately for Hannibal, it still can't escape its reputation for being a poor imitation of its predecessor - when it's not cutting out the sort of thing that made said predecessor worthwhile in the first place. A large chunk of what made The Silence of the Lambs work was the twisted symbiotic relationship that emerged between Lecter and FBI agent Clarice Starling (originally played by Jodie Foster but replaced with Julianne Moore in this sequel), however the bulk of this film involves them being separated and out of contact with one another.

Instead, what drives the film is Mason Verger (a near-unrecognisable Gary Oldman), a sadistic millionaire who has been left disfigured and paralysed by Lecter and is now trying to exact bloody vengeance upon him. To this extent, much of the story involves an Italian detective (Giancarlo Giannini) searching for Lecter in Florence, which results in the second act of the film becoming a tiresome cat-and-mouse game between the two that barely involves Starling or much in the way of thrills. Starling's side of the story doesn't involve much - though Moore does make a decent enough substitute for Foster, she's ultimately kind of wasted as her familiar level of determination doesn't have that much of an effect on the plot until the third act, though she does get a handful of decent scenes through they are spread rather thin across the film. Hopkins, on the other hand, doesn't seem to be putting much effort into the role and seems willing to play more towards caricature than towards a genuine performance. At least Oldman manages to do well at acting through a face full of makeup.

I have mixed feelings about Ridley Scott as a director - he's made some great films, some alright films, and others I don't care for. Regardless of how I felt about his films, I always respected his craftsmanship no matter what - even the worst of his films at least looked good. Hannibal is definitely on the bad end of Scott's filmography, but it still manages to showcase Scott's capacity for solid visuals above all else. Though the violence in this film tends to be sensationalised in a way that seems to undercut the psychological elements and make the film itself come across as excessively gory, that doesn't mean they aren't occasionally effective; those final scenes are genuinely unsettling in a way (especially since they differ from the novel in a good way - as bad as this film can be, it could have been a lot worse if it'd gone with the novel's original ending). There's also the extremely effective makeup job that's applied to Oldman to make him look like a man who's cut his own face off. Unfortunately, there are a lot of Scott's more obvious visual flaws, like some shoddily-handled slow-motion and Bay-like fast-cutting in certain scenes. It's definitely a weak attempt at continuing a story that really didn't need to be continued, but it has its moments that make the whole two-hour running time pass by a little better than it would have otherwise.