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Paul Greenwood

Published February 9th, 2007 | by Paul Greenwood

Hannibal Rising Review

Classification: 18 Director: Peter Webber Rating: 2.5/5

That old cash-whore Dino De Laurentiis is at it again, taking his most lucrative franchise and milking it ‘til its nipples are red raw and everyone has become thoroughly bored of their once favourite cannibal. Hannibal Rising sells itself as the story of Hannibal Lecter’s origin, going behind the mask, as it were, to discover what made him.

We first meet Hannibal as a young boy in Lithuania during the war. When his parents are killed, he and his sister take refuge in the woods but are soon found by some local men who are tight with the SS. Freezing and starving, they kill and eat his sister as their only option for survival.

Eight years later he manages to escape from the orphanage he ended up in and make his way to France and the home of his wealthy Japanese aunt (Li). Here he learns combat and becomes a medical student, all the while devoting himself to tracking down and killing the men who killed his sister.

What should have been a keen psychological insight into Lecter’s mind and development is unfortunately nothing of the sort. We get the “how” of him becoming who he is, but never really the “why”, other than the fact that his sister was murdered. Other characters continually refer to him as a monster, but really he’s just a particularly vicious vigilante, albeit one who enjoys a nibble on his victims’ cheeks. Hannibal Rising therefore turns out to be little more than a tawdry revenge fantasy, as Lecter slices his way across Europe, disposing of his targets in ever more bloodthirsty ways.

Ulliel is fine as Lecter, nothing more – he doesn’t have to say too much and he does a nice line in maniacal leers. For some reason, most of the supporting cast are Brits, rather than the usual rent-a-Euro suspects of Tcheky Karyo or Peter Stormare. They all make a good impression, particularly West as the sympathetic cop who wants the men brought to justice almost as much as Lecter wants to barbecue them.

The production design oozes gothic beauty, but the direction is pedestrian and chills are nowhere to be found, while there isn’t even the slightest flash of dark humour to liven the proceedings. One visit to the Lecter well too many it would seem, although it is still better than Ridley Scott’s Hannibal.


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