**.2 GM
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Giancarlo Giannini, Francesca Neri, Gary Oldman, Ray Liotta


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Having partaken of "The Silence of the Lambs" the previous evening in order to keep its nuances and subtleties fresh in my conscious mind while perusing this next episode in the saga of Dr. Hannibal Lecter, M.D. - eagerly anticipated by those who could not predict its superfluous nature - I find myself much more acutely aware of certain... qualitative differences betwixt this installment and its most abundantly lauded predecessor. It puts me in the mind of a plagued Ridley Scott... possibly uncertain whether or not the herculean effort to make "Gladiator" was enough to quell the constant torment that "G.I. Jane" inflicts upon him in most waking moments. It also harkens to a troubled co-screenwriter David Mamet, perhaps stirring about in cold sweats each and every night, the horrible sound of his wife's stilted and awkward line deliveries echoing through his brain and granting him no peace. Perhaps they've focused the entirety of their faculties on this task, believing deep within their souls that if they can make just one excellent film, they can end the screaming of the poor cinematic endeavors that haunt their restless days and sleepless nights. Well, David... how do you feel, now that the film has been released to the salivating public? Has poor Rebecca Pidgeon finally been silenced?

If one is to judge by the film itself, I would think the poor devils have more work to do before they can feel truly cleansed, because the end result is a random, undercooked recipe for a thriller, although I hear Mamet is not to blame, since his draft of the script was hardly used... yet it makes one wonder how he got a co-screenwriting credit, then.. or why he would want one. It's quite painfully obvious that the chefs ran out of suspense early on in the process and hoped they could substitute copious amounts of gore and smooth it over with the tangy zip of good performances from Anthony Hopkins and one Julianne Moore, the latter of which could not make one forget, despite noble efforts, that the role of Clarice Starling belongs to Jodie Foster alone.

The entire essence of the film seems to simply be a glimpse into Dr. Lecter's life - what he does with the freedom he craved so much. However, the story is reminiscent of a situation comedy from the American 1970s referred to as "Happy Days," in which the most popular character, an artificially coiffed young rapscallion by the name of Arthur Fonzerelli, was slowly shifted to become the main focus of the entire series, and as a result, became somewhat softer of a character, and inherently less interesting to boot. The focus is more on Hannibal as a human being this time, as opposed to Hannibal being an interesting yet frightening monstrosity in Starling's path towards rescuing a helpless young woman from certain doom. We basically learn that the cunning Dr. Lecter only eats and kills the rude and uncouth people that the audience has no sympathy for, such as Ray Liotta's ham-fistedly blatant asshole character. So, rather than have an intricately constructed plot that creates a sense of urgency, the story is basically people suddenly getting interested in trying to find the good doctor again after ten years, and it boils down to a race to see who finds him first - Starling or Mason Verger, Lecter's hideously disfigured surviving victim, played by an unrecognizable Gary Oldman. The trouble is that it is a dreadfully dull race, since if Starling emerges victorious, it's back to the dreary old cell that he spent so many years trapped in, and if Verger catches him, he's fed to wild, carnivorous boars. Since Lecter is a fellow that likes to murder with flair and partake in the consumption of Goodfella cerebellum, it's somewhat difficult to drum up sympathy for his plight, no matter how charismatic he may seem at times. There are also a few lapses in logic apparently explained too neatly as Starling's intellectual acumen that unfortunately do not ring true, and it is unfailingly irritating when Italian characters in Italy speak to each other in English for no discernible reason.

So, the answers are right in front of us... there is little suspense, a reliance on digital gore in lieu of a true climax, and no Jodie Foster or Jonathan Demme. If one truly hoped to follow up such a masterpiece with another of a similar caliber, shouldn't one have waited until all of the winning components were in place once again? What purpose is to be served by churning out an incomplete sequel, especially after waiting over a decade already? Ah, yes... it is what they all covet... How does one begin to covet? They create a film that makes millions of dollars... so they need to write another... and hope the success remains the same regardless of the quality... because coveting something so ravenously leads to impatience... and impatience leads to sloppiness... sloppiness leads to anger... anger leads to hate... hate leads to the Dark Side...

Wait a minute. The perfect solution is to have Hannibal Lecter, Dark Lord of the Sith, eat Jar Jar Binks with some fava beans and a fine chianti. Two birds, one stone, everybody's happy.

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