February 12, 2001 12:00 PM

Anthony Hopkins, Julianne Moore, Ray Liotta, Giancarlo Giannini

The Silence of the Lambs needed a sequel about as much as the Statue of Liberty needs a Walkman. But leaving well enough alone is not Hollywood’s habit when there are tubs of money to be made. As a result, fans of the 1991 thriller can once again see Hannibal Lecter, that eminent psychiatrist turned psycho cannibal, and Clarice Starling, the humorless FBI agent, circle each other warily—this time in a rancid, blood-soaked disappointment.

Hannibal begins with prison escapee Lecter (Hopkins, of course) on the loose and living in Italy. Eager to reconnect with Starling (Moore, assuming Jodie Foster’s role) after 10 years, he sends her a missive that puts her on his trail. Where Silence concentrated on the complex psychological relationship that developed between Lecter and Starling, Hannibal adds a perverted sense of romance—at least on Lecter’s part. Although free of his protective mouthpiece here, he can’t mask his attraction to Starling, and she, despite the years that have passed, can’t get his insinuating voice out of her head.

While Hannibal generates some genuine chills, its plot rambles and there’s way too much gratuitous gore, including an evisceration, a throat slashing and much worse. Considering the talent involved, the movie should have been better. Among the many accomplished cooks stirring Hannibal’s pot are director Ridley Scott (Gladiator) and screenwriters David Mamet (State and Main) and Steve Zaillian (Schindler’s List), who adapted Thomas Harris’s bestselling 1999 novel. And Hopkins, returning with relish to the role for which he won an Oscar, is all seductive evil, using his velvet voice like a caress. Moore, successfully supplanting memories of Foster, is compelling as a hard-driving professional determined to nab her man-eating man. In the end, one leaves Hannibal conflicted: there’s lasting queasiness at its many stomach-turning moments but admiration for Hopkins and Moore for managing to be as credible as they are amid this exploitative silliness. (R)

Bottom Line: Not to our taste

You May Like