Ten years ago the serial killer and all round know-it-all Doctor Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) escaped from FBI custody after serving a part of a life term in a high security prison asylum, and Agent Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore) feels a little responsible, thanks to the murderer making a connection with her on a curiously intellectual level. The Bureau are still trying to track him down, but the trail went cold a long while back, although that has not stopped one twisted millionaire with a grudge, Mason Verger (Gary Oldman), from doing his best to track him down...
Having been made to cut his own face off and feed it to his dog would do that to a man, according to this at any rate, in the sequel to the multi-award winning and all round horror movie game changing The Silence of the Lambs. It would not have been the same without Hopkins, so naturally he was on board to reprise his Oscar-winning role, but would it be the same without the others involved with that movie? Jodie Foster and director Jonathan Demme bowed out along the way, and producer Dino De Laurentiis and his team had to jump through many hoops to get an end result they felt everyone would be happy with.
After all, with the much-respected Ridley Scott at the helm, this was surely going to be something special, right? Hmm, not quite, because the issues they had with adapting a book which if anything was more twisted in plotting that the previous one thanks to author Thomas Harris gleefully playing nasty games with the characters proved too hard to get over, and where the ending of the novel had been controversial, it did at least operate as a sick joke which in its way was the ideal happy ending for a very particular brand of anti-hero. In the movie, on the other hand, they did not have the courage of those convictions and wound up with a rather indifferent manner to close the story.
It was notable the next two instalments in the franchise were prequels, because although De Laurentiis would have been pleased with a sequel, they had shot themselves in the foot by tying up the strands of the plot in the way they did; when Harris was persuaded to pen not only a new Lecter book but a screenplay as well, he found he had to go back to the character's origins in a disappointing end to the series, as if he were the victim of his own literary success and trapped into penning more Lecter fiction instead of branching out afresh. By the time of Hannibal, it was clear that the killer was the hero, not so much of the anti, sort of a psychopathic Sherlock Holmes whose mental faculties were far and away superior to those around him; his one weakness being his affection for Clarice.
Moore did her best, but trying to recreate one of the most indelible heroines in crime fiction after what Foster had done with the role was a thankless task, and in effect without her last act corruption as the novel had it she was disappointingly straightlaced, even dull in her dogged pursuit. Filling out the ranks were Ray Liotta as one of her fellow agents, so obnoxious that you can easily predict he's doomed, though the precise manner of that fate remained striking, and Giancarlo Giannini who in a humdrum middle section designed to have us thinking we were watching something really classy what with all that art going on played an Italian police inspector who realises he has a chance to capture Lecter but allows his greed for Verger's large reward to cloud his better judgement. And that was the chief drawback here, as Harris's sly reveal of the vileness behind a supposedly cultured facade was here more intent on proving its culture over its vileness. There were the violent moments, but they made the mistake of pandering to Lecter when they should have been faithful to Harris. Music by Hans Zimmer.
Talented, prolific British director whose background in set design and advertising always brings a stylised, visually stunning sheen to often mainstream projects. Scott made his debut in 1977 with the unusual The Duellists, but it was with his next two films - now-classic sci-fi thrillers Alien and Blade Runner - that he really made his mark. Slick fantasy Legend and excellent thriller Someone to Watch Over Me followed, while Thelma and Louise proved one of the most talked-about films of 1991. However, his subsequent movies - the mega-budget flop 1492, GI Jane and the hopeless White Squall failed to satisfy critics or find audiences.
Scott bounced back to the A-list in 2000 with the Oscar-winning epic Gladiator, and since then has had big hits with uneven Hannibal, savage war drama Black Hawk Down and his Robin Hood update. Prometheus, tentatively sold as a spin-off from Alien, created a huge buzz in 2012, then a lot of indignation. His Cormac McCarthy-penned thriller The Counselor didn't even get the buzz, flopping badly then turning cult movie. Exodus: Gods and Kings was a controversial Biblical epic, but a success at the box office, as was sci-fi survival tale The Martian. Alien Covenant was the second in his sci-fi prequel trilogy, but did not go down well with fans. Brother to the more commercial, less cerebral Tony Scott.