Halloween, Horror, Satire

Hannibal (2001)

0 Comments 20 October 2011

Hannibal cover

Studio: MGM
Theatrical Release: February 9th, 2001
Blu Ray Release: September 13th, 2011
Rating: R
Review by Craig Sorensen

Hannibal picks up a few years after the events of “The Silence of the Lambs”.  Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins of “Magic”) is still on the lamb, living in Italy.  Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore of “Tales from the Darkside: The Movie”), now disgraced after a botched drug raid (due to those pesky local cops who always fuck up the FBI’s plans), has been reassigned to the Lecter case at the behest of Mason Verger (Gary Oldman of  “Track 29”).  Verger is the one victim of Lecters that managed to survive and happens to have a lot of pull with both the FBI and the Department of Justice.  You see, Verger wants to capture Lecter for himself so he can feed him to his specially trained boars.  This plan works out about as well as you can imagine.

Hannibal is pure, bloated, big budget studio exploitation plain and simple.  And taken on that level it can be kind of entertaining.  I still can’t help thinking though that this is really a missed opportunity.  Jonathan Demme was such a great choice to direct the original “Silence of the Lambs”, having come up in the real exploitation business under Roger Corman and also working under the studio system of the 80’s.  He was able to take those exploitive moments and fuse them into a studio thriller, while not losing the humor.  Yes there is humor in “The Silence of the Lambs”.  And I really think that Hannibal needed a director who could balance those desperate elements.  I don’t believe Ridley Scott was up to the task.

Now, I’m not saying that I think Scott is a bad film maker.  I love “Alien” and “Bladerunner”.  I think both are probably classics.  I just don’t think that he can handle satire.  And I believe that the Hannibal script by David Mamet and Steven Zaillian is satire.  And I believe that the actors know that it’s satire.  Hopkins is certainly hamming it up.  Oldman is obviously playing things as comedy.  It just seems like Scott’s way too serious tone keeps getting in the way of a great comedy.  The only time that it feels right is the end dinner scene (which I won’t spoil if you haven’t seen it).  But I don’t know if that’s Scott or if the scene is just so ridiculous that it couldn’t bee seen any other way.  I would have loved to see what someone like Paul Verhoeven would have done with this movie.

Also, it seems like there are a few ‘Tony Scottisms’ starting to work their way into Ridley Scotts bag of tricks.  We also get some blurry post effects, shutter angle camera tricks (think the opening battle in “Saving Private Ryan”) and post production slow motion.  All these things (and some bad CGI) date this film horribly.

Still, the acting is solid all around.  By this point, Hopkins is pretty comfortable with the character of Dr. Lecter.  And yes, he hams it up and chews the scenery like a hungry cannibal.  But with certain actors this kind of thing doesn’t bother me.  Not everyone can get away with it, but Hopkins has the not only the talent but the screen presence to make it work.  Oldman seems to be having a good time with his part as well.  He’s decked out through most of the film in a disgusting facial prosthetic and he definitely uses it to it’s full effect.  Ray Liotta’s in this too and he always plays a good sexist slimeball.  Julianne Moore is basically the straight man in this film so she doesn’t get to have nearly as much fun as the males in the film.  Still she does a good job.  I didn’t miss Jodie Foster a bit.  I also really enjoyed Giancarlo Giannini as Inspector Pazzi.  I think he’s a great character actor and always enjoy his performances.

Hannibal looks really good on Blu-Ray.  It’s not a terribly old film though so I didn’t have much doubts.  Colors look like what I remember them looking like in the theater.  I didn’t notice any issues with edge enhancement or compression artifacting.  It looked nice to me.  Sound was equally good.

When it comes to extras, well this disc just seems lazy.  There are three trailers included, Silence of the Lambs, The Usual Suspects and (of course) Bulletproof Monk.  They couldn’t even through the trailer for the film on the disc, let alone any of the special features from the previous DVD editions.  I really don’t understand the point of this.  Either they hope to squeeze a second purchase out of you with a ‘special’ edition or they really just don’t give a fuck.  It’s a shitty habit but I don’t think it’s a deal breaker for me.  I’m more concerned about the transfer.  Give me a good transfer and I’ll be happy.  It’s nice to have special features for sure, but if they aren’t there I’m not going to throw a fit, you know.  It’s just that you know that they have them so why not just put them on there in SD?

So I guess if you’re a fan of the film and don’t mind the missing supplements then this is definitely the version of the film to get.  Otherwise I don’t know if I would recommend this as anything but an interesting, but flawed thriller.  It does have good performances but the film is bogged down by heavy handed direction.  It’s too bad.  This could have been a great comedy.

- who has written 151 posts on UnRated Film Review Magazine | Movie Reviews, Interviews.

Craig hails from 'Parts Unknown'.

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