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'Silence of the Lambs' sequel offers new thrills, more gore

Feb. 16, 2001

By KAREN KALB

Entertainment Editor

Just when you thought it was safe to eat from your neighbor's plate ...

After 10 years of silence, Dr. Hannibal 'the Cannibal' Lecter has come out of retirement.

Hannibal takes up where Silence of the Lambs left off, with Dr. Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) at large after his violent prison break. He's now living the good life in Italy as Dr. Fell, all the while remaining on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List.

Even when uttering mild phrases like 'goody goody' and 'okee dokee,' Lecter remains an eerie force.

This time around, Julianne Moore fills Jodie Foster's 'cheap shoes' as Agent Clarice Starling. Starling is dealing with public disgrace after a misguided drug bust, and a supervisor whose harassment would put Clarence Thomas to shame.

This loathsome supervisor comes in the form of Paul Krendler (Ray Liotta). After Starling rebuffs his advances, his goal becomes humiliating her.

Her chance to reconnect with the Lecter case comes in the form of Mason Verger, played by the unrecognizable Gary Oldman. Lecter earlier served as psychiatrist to the disturbed pedophile, and convinced him to peel off his own face while under the influence of drugs. A little upset, Verger has since been concocting a plan of humiliation for Lecter.

Enter Italian cop Rinaldo Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini). The corrupt officer is hell-bent on collecting the $3 million reward for capturing Lecter, despite Starling's repeated warnings.

The film's biggest problem? Being the sequel to one of Hollywood's smartest, most successful horror films.

Yet it's almost impossible to compare the two.

Despite missing the impossible mark of living up to its celebrated older sibling, Hannibal stands firmly on its own two feet as an enjoyable film. It has a humor the first film didn't, and does well not to let its new, higher budget overshadow the storyline.

Ridley Scott of Alien and Gladiator fame takes the directorial reins from Oscar-winning Jonathan Demme. Scott has gone for grand where Demme went for gritty.

Where Silence of the Lambs profiled the psychological bond between Starling and Lecter, Hannibal puts the focus on the cannibal himself. And with characters like Verger, Pazzi and Krendler, you can't help but love Lecter.

Much of the movie has been changed from Thomas Harris' gruesome novel, which left droves of unhappy readers -- Jodie Foster reportedly among them.

Though Starling is still tough, Moore gives her a softer, more sophisticated feel. Moore's performance is good, but she almost seems too trained after Foster's performance.

Hannibal is actually Lecter's third film appearance. Scottish actor Brian Cox first brought the character to life in 1986's Manhunter, an adaptation of Harris' novel Red Dragon. However, Hopkins has come to personify the maniacal psychiatrist after his chilling turn in Silence of the Lambs.

Not surprisingly, plans are already being discussed for a remake of Red Dragon with Hopkins.