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After having successfully eluded the authorities for years, Hannibal peacefully lives in Italy in disguise as an art scholar. Trouble strikes again when he is discovered leaving a deserving few dead in the process. He returns back to America to once again make contact with now disgraced Agent Clarice Starling who is suffering the wrath of a malicious FBI official/rival as well as the media.

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Hannibal movie full length review - Doesn't come close to the quality of the original, but Anthony Hopkins's performance saves the movie. *** (out of four)

HANNIBAL / (2001) *** (out of four)

By Blake French:

Some movies are born to inspire sequels but "The Silence of The Lambs" is a movie that does not need a sequel. The Academy Award winning thriller earned ubiquitous critical acclaim, therefore a continuation is nearly incapable of living up to its standards. To make things worse for the highly anticipated sequel "Hannibal," the original film's director and main star bailed out, leaving Ridley Scott ("Gladiator") and Julianne Moore ("Magnolia") filling their places in the credits. It is hard to imagine how this movie could possibly succeed. But the exceptionally beautiful filmmaking, strong performances, intriguing story, and moody atmosphere provoke more nail-biting moments than most thrillers these days.

The story of "Hannibal" does not compare with "The Silence of the Lambs." It replaces tension-filled sequences of psychological terror with scenes featuring some of the most grotesque images and realistic gore to ever make its mark on the big screen. This film relies heavily on the shock factor of such extreme graphic violence, although such content is never excessive or relentless. It has perfect timing. The sheer presence of Anthony Hopkins, in another horrific and career defining performance, often creates enough terror for several movies. "Hannibal" knows that and frequently gives the character more freedom than he had in he first film. But I am not so sure that is a good thing; is it more terrifying listening to Hannibal Lecter discuss his disgusting actions or to actually see him perform such disturbing behaviors?

The film takes place ten years after FBI agent Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster then, Julianne Moore now) interviewed convicted mass murdering cannibal Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) while searching for another disturbed killer. Present day: Clarice is involved with a drug bust shoot-out that leaves many dead. Justice Dept. Official Paul Krendler (Ray Liotta), is about to punish her when she gets a call from a the unrecognizably deformed surviving victim of an attack by Lecter. His name is Mason Verge (Gary Oldman), a wealthy recluse who asks that Starling be placed back on the case of the Cannibal, who has been on the loose for ten years.

The movie investigates a lot more than Clarice's experiences with Hannibal Lecter. The script actually consists of two separate stories, one detailing the revenge scheme of Mason, whom is still angry with Lecter after he caused the removal of his face and partial paralysis. The other takes place in Italy, where an inspector named Rinaldo Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini) is out to claim a multimillion dollar reward for providing authorities with proper evidence leading to the arrest of a local, who turns out to be none other than Lecter himself. Obviously this man does not know what he is in for, and ends up losing his cuts for the money?literally.

Parallel stories are always interesting, but are easily sidetracked with certain characters and or events. What keeps this movie intriguing is the consistent focus on Lector; everything in the story seems to revolve around him. Then again, "Hannibal" is also quite pointless because it solves nothing. Without giving away the ending, I will say that we are once again left pondering about Lecter. Most any movie that provokes thoughts is worth seeing, but "Hannibal" forgets the first film, takes a stand on its own, and once again sets us up for another unnecessary follow-up.

The most apparent conflict many audiences with have with "Hannibal" is the absence of Jodie Foster. Julianne Moore is most definitely a capable and challenging actress, and plays the role of Starling with exuberance and clarity. But Foster is simply better in the role and we miss her dearly. Anthony Hopkins saves the movie; the actor is so intense and grisly in his subtle and classy manner, he once again qualifies as an award nominee. Thank goodness he returned for the role; without Hopkins, "Hannibal" would be nothing but underdone carnage.