directed by Ridley Scott
(Universal, 2001)

Hannibal has been the subject of great controversy from the day it was released. There seems to be a clear division between women and men in the perception of this movie's worth. We cannot even agree on the true genre. It was billed as a horror and men agree that it should be, but complain that it is not. So, why are we women saying it is a strong love story?

The plot is great. Dr. Hannibal Lector (Anthony Hopkins), who escaped while serving consecutive life sentences in Silence of the Lambs, is living in Florence and serving as curator of a museum library. When agent Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore, replacing Jodie Foster in the role) comes under fire from her superiors at the FBI, Hannibal comes to her rescue. (See, it is a love story!) However, Agent Starling is doing the "come here, get away" thing and is struggling to do her job as an agent tasked with bringing this killer to justice.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch -- literally -- Hannibal's fourth victim and the only one to escape, Mason Verger (Gary Oldman), has devised an evil scheme to have Hannibal caught. He has paid to have razorback hogs trained to attack and plans to feed Hannibal to them. (See, it's a horror.) He has offered a $3 million reward for information leading to Hannibal's apprehension. Enter the Florence inspector, Rinaldo Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini), who needs the money to support his lovely wife in the manner that she demands. That $3 mil is a lot of money for just one man.

I do not see how anybody could say anything bad about this movie. It has everything: gore, humor, love scenes and tension throughout. Who will get whom first? Every actor and actress is outstanding, no matter whether you are looking at Hopkins in the lead role or the brief appearance of Francesca Neri as Allegra Pazzi. Bits of dialogue evoked extreme emotions. Ray Liotta was so awesome as Agent Paul Krendler that I wanted to throw a shoe at the screen every time he came into view. When actors can elicit that type of response from the viewer, they are doing their job as well as it could be done.

How can you not laugh when Clarice explains that Hannibal killed a violinist as a public service -- to improve the sound of the Boston Philharmonic? At the same time, you have to wonder, if you met him, which of your personal quirks might he find offensive. He is funny but still deadly. Perhaps he has been transformed from the deranged criminal in Silence to a "cuddly" man that we somehow understand. Is that really a bad thing? I think I prefer loving him in this movie to hating him in the other. I thought this movie was just as scary as the other.

Moore was a big improvement over Foster as Clarice. To a true Southerner, nothing is worse than a person trying to fake a southern dialect. Foster bobbled it a couple of times with overkill, while Moore flows with consistent syrupy drawl all the way through. She did a better job of portraying the psychological makeup of Clarice. She seems more torn inside, overcompensating on the outside, and less of a wimp. She seems tougher but in a feminine way.

OK, it is a horror story with plenty of gore. But, doggone it! It is the best love story I have seen in years. I want a sequel so badly. I am so caught up in this twisted, demented, soft, tender affair that I can hardly wait. Be sure you see this movie. It is the best conversation starter around.

I would like to do something unusual and refer you to another review here at Rambles. Chet Williamson's view of the "cuddly" Hannibal is a bit different from mine in the series prequel, Red Dragon. At least you will get both sides.

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 8 February 2003

Buy it from Amazon.com.