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The Daily Tar Heel

`Hannibal' Serves Up Gore, Poor Characterization

Hannibal

3 Stars

As one of the most graphic scenes in film history squeals to a close, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) pulls in close to Special Agent Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore) and delivers a classic line.

"I came halfway around the world to watch you run, Clarice. Will you let me run?"

Starling's response is never really in question. But the moment might have been suspenseful had the quandary been posed to Ridley Scott, the director of "Hannibal."

In adapting Thomas Harris' novel, Scott succeeds in resurrecting Dr. Lecter but fails to create an atmosphere equal to that of "The Silence of the Lambs."

For those who have yet to hear the lambs cry, a brief summation: the critically acclaimed "Silence," released in 1991, introduced FBI trainee Starling. She was assigned to track down a serial killer who took the idiom "you are what you wear" a little too seriously.

Starling, then played by Academy Award-winner Jodie Foster, visited incarcerated cannibalistic murderer Dr. Lecter to learn more about the new killer and ended up trading pieces of her life story for details about the case.

"Hannibal" picks up their stories a decade later. Starling, now a hardened veteran of the FBI, is being publicly flayed for her involvement in a botched drug raid, while Hannibal has relocated to Florence, Italy, where he is vying for a position as a museum curator.

Starling receives a letter from Dr. Lecter, and the parcel attracts the attention of Mason Verger (Gary Oldman), a wealthy and influential recluse. Verger, who managed to survive a bad date with Dr. Lecter and is obsessed with exacting vengeance, decides to use Starling as bait to recapture him.

To this point, "Hannibal" is a painfully clumsy spectacle. Once Hopkins finally graces the screen, the audience feels more relieved than excited.

Things pick up as Dr. Lecter is pursued by Detective Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini) in Italy. Hopkins' scenes with Giannini are the film's most compelling because Pazzi's interaction with Dr. Lecter feels fresh.

A genuine tension permeates this portion of the movie and recaptures some of the intensity of "Silence." Sadly, Pazzi doesn't have the guts to hang with the sophisticated sociopath for very long.

After eluding capture in Florence, Dr. Lecter disappears until Starling is threatened, courtesy of Verger's Justice Department lackey, Paul Krendler (Ray Liotta).

The remainder of "Hannibal" is exceptional only in the amount of grotesque violence Scott manages to cram into 40 minutes. Scott doesn't fail to adapt the horror of the novel to the screen so much as he neglects to adapt the characters to the violence.

By failing to develop, or even to include, some of the more powerful characters from the novel -- Verger, Krendler, and Starling especially -- Scott resigns "Hannibal" to being a tour de force for Sir Anthony.

Fortunately, Hopkins is as stunning as he was a decade ago, but the support isn't there. Moore is a poor substitute for Foster. Her acting lacks depth, leaving Starling limp and making it impossible to become attached to her story. Sadly, the innocence and subtlety that made "Silence of the Lambs" compelling is hopelessly lost.

The Arts & Entertainment Editor can be reached at artsdesk@unc.edu.

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