USA, 2001. Rated R. 135 minutes.

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Gary Oldman, Ray Liotta, Giancarlo Giannini
Writers: David Mamet and Steve Zaillian, based on the novel by Thomas Harris
Director: Ridley Scott

Grade: F
Commentary by Dana.

Why did I loathe Hannibal? Let me count the ways:

Because it's vile, putrid, lurid, and sadistic in both its visual and its thematic presentation of cruelty and evil. The entire ensemble of characters beyond Hannibal and Clarice exists as nothing more than a series of straw man villains or moral weaklings who can be tortured and summarily dispensed with while the audience sits in the comfort of "horrified" neutrality at best, and amused approval at worst. Yuck.

When the film is not being giddily sadistic, it's just one big bore. Where's the story? There is no story. Plot points stand in for characterization or thematic content, and many of those plot points are unbelievably ludicrous. So, I'm to believe that the FBI considers its Ten Most Wanted list to be classified information that would require a special password to access? Uh... the whole point of having such a list is to make it public. This detail is the one legitimate laugh in the entire film, and it's not even meant to be funny.

Ridley Scott is utterly inept. What is this thing supposed to be? FBI Procedural? Biting Social Commentary? Psychological Melodrama? Edge-o-Your-Seat Thriller? Black Comedy? Monster-with-a-Heart-o-Gold Horror Movie? Intellectual Cat-n-Mouse Game Between Evil Masterminds? Herschell Gordon Lewis Travelogue?
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Pick one, pick several. Hannibal fails at all of them. There are no interesting tidbits of investigation to savor. There's nothing much to think about afterward, unless you find "misogyny is bad!" or "pedophiles are icky!" or "psychopaths can love!" to be particularly scintillating topics for rumination. And even if they are, there's nothing in this film that even hints at what might be interesting about those concepts.

As for psychological melodrama, it's useful to include some character shadings if we're supposed to be intrigued by what they're doing and why, but there's none of that here. Just put Mr. X here, move him there, have him do this, see him die, etc. Yawn. There's no suspense whatsoever in this film, and if it's supposed to be funny... well, pardon me for not laughing. Ridley Scott composes a bunch of pretty or moody shots, but he never manages to use them separately or in sequence to convey any sort of coherent tone. The movie just sits up there on the screen, flopping about spastically like a dying trout until the credits roll.

Only rarely have I seen a film and quite literally wished that I could turn back time and erase the experience, but this was one of those times. And, no, I do not buy the argument that the extremity of my reaction somehow proves that this is "art" or anything valuable at all. If Hannibal is art, then the world is in a very sorry state.

Wallowing in gore for the sake of empty-headed titillation is nothing new, but this film feels like a new low to me. If it had contained even a shred of an interesting idea, or one ounce of compelling psychological illumination, it might be forgivable trash... glossy horror for those who like scenic vistas. But it's really nothing more than a soulless exercise in cheap thrills, made even more reprehensible by the participation of so many respectable people.

Now... if only the adorably sentimental Dr. Lecter could cut my skull open and remove the chunk of my brain that houses the memory of having seen this film....

Read why Carlo gives HANNIBAL a 'B-.'

Written content © February 2001 by AboutFilm.Com and the author.
Images © 2001 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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