Hannibal Rising

Director    Peter Webber
Starring    Gaspard Ulliel, Gong Li, Rhys Ifans, Dominic West, Richard Brake
Release    February 9th (US) February 9th (UK)    Certificate 18
1 stars


12th February 2007

Turning Anthony Hopkins' most memorable performance into a pretentious Jason Voorhees takes a certain, rather considerable ability. Hannibal Rising is the work of an undoubted artistic vandal: it's not an intriguing character study into the mundanity of evil. It's just an exercise in the inanity of evil.

Perhaps what is more surprising is that this film was not by a hack who wrote a lazy revenge story, but by the filthy rich Thomas Harris. The stench of contractual obligation and last minute desperation reek around this nonsensical, incoherent excuse of a film. Hannibal Rising is, simply put, a dumb piece of hacksploitation designed solely to extract money from your wallet. There's no love, no care, no sense, and no talent in this film. The film is a blunt tool, fuelled solely by greed, positing an imitation of what good films could be - it looks good, but is ultimately shallow, hollow, and a meaningless waste of time.

This film does, by the way, have a plot: When Hannibal was a child, some soldiers murdered his sister - a plot point that is repeated in endless, repetitive, artless flashbacks about every 8 minutes during the film. After his conversion to an Evil Ninja On A Quest For Revenge, Hannibal spends most of the film clad in black, a psychotic Cadbury's Milk Tray Man programmed to eliminate the people who did him wrong years ago. Hannibal then spends the film dispatching his enemies in increasingly violent fashion: forget the eloquent, intelligent and cultured killer from the original movies - Hannibal is now a fully-fledged version of the slasher club. Kill 9 faceless henchmen, and the tenth is on the house!

The plot is built of a mountain of improbabilities and impossible co-incidence that's up there with the laziest James Bond films. All the bad guys are fat, slovenly, scruffy and unshaven (their leader is played by Rhys Ifans, for Christ's sake). Plot and continuity holes are the size of Texas. The imagery is crass, repetitive, and screamingly obvious: "Look prole! Here's a close-up of a hog, as used on Mason Verger in Hannibal! And look, now Hannibal is wearing a samurai mask that looks a bit like the muzzle he wore in Silence of the Lambs! He's got slicked-back hair and talks all posh! Hannibal!" There's more of course. Just in case you hadn't noticed, the improbably named Hannibal (which, purely by chance rhymes with cannibal - he was always destined to either be a flesh-eater or a human cannonball) is referred to by name at every possible juncture. "Hannibal!" his mum calls. "Hannibal!" call the coppers. "Hannibal!" says Gong Li, just before the Karate Kid martial arts training montage. Yes, there's a samurai segment, which sees Lecter re-enacting Team America beat for beat as he learns swordplay. Everybody needs a montage.

The biggest opportunity this film has is to turn the 'bad guys' into sympathetic characters who walked a moral tightrope of desperation in the depths of war, thus making Hannibal's darkness a result of a unchecked, compulsive desire for revenge that knows no limits. But guess what? Any semblance of intelligence is pissed away in favour of another grisly murder.

Instead of what it could have been - an interesting character study that adds to the mythology of one of cinema's greatest screen villains - Hannibal Rising takes the complex, enigmatic character of Lecter and turns him into a parody of himself. It ass-rapes all internal logic and trades depth for dumbness in a base and stupid quest for cash. Imagine, if you will, all the worst parts of the Star Wars prequels condensed into a two hour chunk, with dozens of pointless murders thrown in, and you are still only approaching 1% of the full horror that is this idiotic, bullshit celluloid abortion.

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