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"Hannibal Rising" Poster

Hannibal Rising

Genre: Thriller/Horror
Rated: R
Directed by: Peter Webber
Starring: Gaspard Ulliel, Rhys Ifans, Gong Li, Helena Lia Tachovska, Dominic West, Aaron Thomas
Released by:
The Weinstein Company

In Short: The origins of Hannibal Lecter, cannibal and serial killer extraordinaire, begin in this plodding story of post-World War II revenge.

Cannibal Redux
He's Back, in this Prequel to a Prequel

by Jenny Peters

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last 20 years, you already know a lot about Dr. Hannibal Lecter. The brainchild of author Thomas Harris, the brilliant doctor turned cannibalistic serial killer has been iconized in four previous films: “Manhunter,” Oscar-winner “The Silence of the Lambs,” “Hannibal,” and “Red Dragon.” Now with “Hannibal Rising” Harris goes back to the beginning, tracing Lecter's transformation from innocent young boy to hardened adult murderer who likes eating human liver “with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.”

Gaspard Ulliel in "Hannibal Rising"
Gong Li in "Hannibal Rising"

Harris, who wrote both the current bestseller and the film's screenplay, takes us back to Lithuania in 1944, when Lecter and his wealthy family are overrun by the Nazis and forced to flee their palatial home. The terrible events that ensue breed in young Hannibal a thirst for vengeance.

The key problem with this origin story is in the pacing of the film. Much like director Peter Webber's previous “The Girl with the Pearl Earring,” “Hannibal Rising” plods along. The action unfolds so slowly that by the time Hannibal (now a medical student in Paris) begins killing and chomping on those that were responsible for his family's miseries, we don’t care anymore. We've been lulled into such a feeling of boredom that even his macabre murders don't really jolt us to attention. Plus, it is obvious from the start that each bad guy is going to get it in the end, leaving the story without suspense.

Hannibal hovers over his prey in "Hannibal Rising"
Gaspard Ulliel acquires his taste for Chianti in "Hannibal Rising"

There are bright spots in the film, however. French actor Gaspard Ulliel gives a credible performance as Hannibal, and Welshman Rhys Ifans (“Notting Hill”) shows a completely different side to his art as the cruel leader of the Nazis' Lithuanian allies, whose wartime atrocities result in their eventual doom.

But the subplot with Gong Li as Hannibal's exotic Japanese aunt is almost laughable, and completely devoid of the sexual tension that is supposed to ignite between the two. Those endless scenes are part of the ultimate feeling of boredom that pervades “Hannibal Rising,” the weakest entry in the long-running series chronicling the life of the serial-killing cannibal we all love to hate.



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