Cold Cuts

Half-baked Silence of the Lambs sequel serves up death warmed over

In short, like the book, this is a work whose only reason to exist is money rather than art. In fact, rare is the film that has had "paycheck" written so clearly all over it, for nearly all the participants. Hopkins is effective, if often verging on self-parody. Giannini looks as if he took his assignment more seriously, investing some real humanity into an Italianized rendition of the classic shabby cop. Gary Oldman, whose name appears only in the closing credits, is unrecognizable as Verger -- a toothless character with no facial features to speak of. Despite the toothlessness, Oldman, for better or worse, immediately sets about chewing the scenery with his trademark gusto.

Director Scott -- whose vastly variable output ranges from Thelma & Louise and Alien to 1492 and Legend -- seems to have signed on just for the sake of a Florentine vacation. A filmmaker with a much richer, more identifiable visual style than Demme, Scott has a distinctive eye that is apparent all throughout the Italian sequences: He makes Florence look like a Renaissance version of the Los Angeles of Blade Runner, which he also made. The American material feels tossed off, though, as if Scott lost interest within moments of passing through customs.

Like other ill-considered sequels -- the later Psycho films leap to mind -- Hannibal is more than just a disappointment. It is also a spoiler, possibly weakening the impact of Silence for its fans. The new information the movie unwisely gives us about Hannibal and Clarice destroys some of the mystery in their relationship, thus retroactively sullying the memories of Silence.

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