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Nearly 10 years after Anthony Hopkins legendary film appearance in "Silence of the Lambs" his HANNIBAL Lecter returned to screens in this 2001 sequel.

The always capable Ridley Scott (Gladiator, Alien) has taken over the Director's chair and Julianne Moore (Boogie Nights) fills in semi-adequately for Jodie Foster as FBI agent Clarice Starling.

Clarice's career is in freefall after several violent mishaps and her boss Paul Krendler (Ray Liotta at his slimy best) is gunning for her as well.

It doesn't help that Krendler is deep into a bribery scheme in which the ultra-wealthy Mason Verger is seeking revenge against the cannibal serial killer who deeply disfigured him.

Hopkins steals every scene he's in as the deliciously erudite Lecter, posing as an art curator in Florence.

The best scenes all live in the first half of the film as Hannibal starts sending teasing letters to Clarice from Italy. Hopkins voice-overs are as delicately crafted as one of his elegant meals and Scott merges them perfectly with on location scenes in Florence and Hans Zimmer's insidious music score.

Giancarlo Giannini is effortlessly cool and the best actor in the film as inspector Pazzi, a local lawman who figures out who Hannibal is and decides to capture him himself.

Bad idea.

The last half of the film follows Thomas Harris's deliciously twisted book almost scene for scene. But what plays gross on the page becomes a symphony of disgust on film, with characters fed alive to wild pigs and Hannibal serving up pieces of brain to a living victim moments after he slices them out of their skull.

I'm not sure I ever need to see that again.

Moore is okay, but never captures the out-of-her-depth urgency that Foster brought to Agent Starling. Hopkins and Giannini are spectacular, especially in the scenes that allow them to play a very dangerous verbal game of cat and mouse that's destined to end in gruesome death.

Gary Oldman is buried in so much makeup as Verger that it's hard to have any emotion during his scenes, just a disquieting urge to look away any time he's on screen.

Like nearly every Ridley Scott film, it looks stunning, its sounds fantastic and its wound tight, hurtling forward when he's not slowly tightening his visual knots.

HANNIBAL is a capable, well done thriller, but it's no 'Silence". The first half is incredible, but post-Florence, it all seems to begin to fray into something undeniably exciting, but less coherent.

I'll give it a B.

Followed in 2002 by "Red Dragon", technically a prequel to the first two films and previously filmed by Michael Mann as "Mindhunter".

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