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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Peter Webber|
scr Thomas Harris
with Gaspard Ulliel, Gong Li, Dominic West, Rhys Ifans, Kevin McKidd, Richard Brake, Stephen Walters, Ivan Marevich, Aaron Thomas, Helena Lia Tachovska, Goran Kostic, Charles Maquignon
release UK/US 9.Feb.07
07/UK DeLaurentiis 2h01
Family values: Gong and Ulliel
This stylish revenge thriller isn't actually the prequel it thinks it is, because this a very different Hannibal Lecter--sympathetic and motivated rather than viciously psychotic. Although it's still good freak-out fun for genre fans.
Hannibal (Ulliel) has survived the horrific experiences of WWII Lithuania: abused by Nazis, Russians and local mercenaries, especially a group of five thugs (Ifans, McKidd, Brake, Walters and Marevitch) who terrorised him as a young boy (Thomas) and murdered his little sister (Tachovska). Now in France, studying medicine and reunited with his last living relative, a Japanese aunt (Gong), he sets out to find the men who ruined his life. But a local police inspector (West) is on his trail.
Director Webber (Girl With a Pearl Earring) loads the screen with stylish images, including a grainy sheen that gives the film a superbly European tone. Meanwhile, writer Harris adapts his own novel, loading the plot with bullies, collaborators, killers and manipulators, as well as buckets of operatic grisliness, much of which is gratuitous and sadistic. There are also frequent visual and thematic echoes of the episodes to come.
The problem is that these are the only connections between this film and the others. In the previous films, set decades later in Hannibal's life, the central character causes death and mayhem for the sheer fun of it. But this Hannibal isn't nearly as monstrous as the script keeps saying he is; he's vicious but never heartless. Ulliel catches the character very nicely indeed, with a dash of camp excess that makes sure the film never takes itself too seriously.
The rest of the cast tip over the top, from Ifan's snarling villain (he's the real monster here) to McKidd's haunted opportunist. Gong is once again strangely miscast as a Japanese character, but she too plays her role with macabre relish, including interludes in which she gets to dress as a leathered biker and a kimonoed sensei. These ridiculous touches help undercut Harris' pretentious script. But in the end we wish the film had just been made as a stand-alone dark avenger thriller, rather than trying to add some sympathy to the Hannibal Lecter legend.
|Michelle, London: "What is the silly bloke from Notting Hill doing being so nasty!? I had real difficulty identifying Rhys Ifans with this role - a strange casting choice methinks. This film is over-gory and left me with furrowed brows. There are obvious links to the later films: music, food, drawings, etc, but there the character similarities end. It's almost like it's a different Hannibal Lecter (obviously missing Anthony Hopkins!) as we feel sorry for him rather than horrified and intrigued by him. Fine to watch but not one I'd ever consider watching again." (12.Feb.07)|
© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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