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A Big Slice of Nothing, Sauteed

By Rebecca Loh and Vladimir Zelevinsky

Staff Writers

Directed by Ridley Scott

Written by David Mamet and Steven Zaillian

With Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman, and Ray Liotta

The morals of Hannibal the movie: (a) It’s wrong to betray people for money; (b) It’s wrong to kidnap people, and even more so if you plan to feed them to wild, flesh-eating pigs;

(c) It’s good to make movies that are based on bestselling novels and that are sequels to hit movies, ’cause you can make a whole lotta money.

Precisely ten years after the release of The Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris’s creepiest character, Hannibal Lecter (once again played by Anthony Hopkins), returns to the big screen. Where Silence was a kick-ass movie that also happened to be about something, Hannibal is as lame as it is pointless. The entire point of the movie has already been summarized above.

The most obvious difference between the two films is the absence of Jodie Foster, who played FBI trainee Clarice Starling in the first one. Though Foster officially dropped out because of conflicting projects, a more likely reason is that she read the script and realized the movie would suck.

And that’s the screenplay that was written by two greats: David Mamet (Glengarry Glen Ross, among others) and Steven Zaillian (Schindler’s List). Sadly enough, this screenplay is more reminiscent of Mamet’s Ronin and Zaillian’s Clear and Present Danger -- that is, a whole lot of goings-on with pretty much nothing happening.

Another really cool guy involved here is director Ridley Scott, taking the reins from Jonathan Demme who helmed Silence -- but Scott’s mind here is clearly not on making a coherent narrative. He’s more interested in making Hannibal’s portrait formed by the flock of pigeons or directing every action sequence by sorta swooshing the camera around (the same method he employed in Gladiator).

Anthony Hopkins appears to be the only person enjoying himself. Reprising his role as the psycho psychiatrist, Hopkins dominates the screen, again assuming the hypnotic voice and coolly efficient movements of the good doctor. The difference this time is that he gets to play a good guy, at least compared to the assorted slimeballs that populate the movie. With Gary Oldman (buried under a pile of makeup) as a vengeful freak and Ray Liotta as a racist, sexist, homophobic, corrupt official, Hannibal “the Cannibal” seems downright warm and cuddly.

And that’s much much more than can be said of Julianne Moore’s version of Clarice Starling. Physically, Moore fits the part, but that’s as close as she gets to capturing the character. Whereas Jodie Foster had given Starling depth and vulnerability in Silence, Moore somehow managed to destroy the character, portraying her as cold and efficient, and completely lacking the charisma that made us like her in the original. Besides that, well, let’s just say that Foster is much more physically attractive ...

And speaking of attractiveness, the makeup crew for this movie deserves much praise for turning Gary Oldman into one of the most hideous monstrosities in film history. Generally speaking, the gory makeup and special effects are done very well. There are several scenes in the film where the gore is so shocking and disgusting that it is actually pretty damn cool.

The movie is also really not boring (if this sounds like damning with faint praise, it is), but, when all is said and done, it is entirely pointless. It only serves to make money for the studios that released it -- and, oh yeah, as a twisted reminder that if you are mean, someone just might come and eat some of your body parts. So there.