Thomas Harris loses his integrity

By By Danny Letz

By Danny Letz

“Hannibal Rising”The Weinstein CompanyDirected by Peter WebberWritten by Thomas HarrisStarring: Gaspard Ulliel, Rhys Ifans, Li Gong and Dominic WestRated R/117 minutesOpens Feb. 9, 2007One out of four stars

Thomas Harris is a whore.

The definition of a whore? Someone who sacrifices his or her dignity and personal convictions (in Harris’ case, as an artist) for the sake of earning money?often from sleazy, well-to-do men.

The result of Harris’ turning tricks, you ask? The two-hour train-wreck prequel to the story of Hannibal Lecter, “Hannibal Rising.”

Paid additional money (lots of it) to write “Hannibal Rising” (likely by an L.A. film mogul scouring the City of Industry for a good time?and millions in profits), Harris takes one for the team, then insists you do the same by cramming two-hours’ worth of see-through caricatures and tired plot clichs down your throat (way down there) until you feel used and dirty, too.

What’s worse? You paid to see it.

The film opens at Lecter Castle during Hitler’s push into the Soviet Bloc near the end of WWII. After a group of vagabond Soviet deserters kill what remains of Lecter’s family (read: eat his little sister for food), Lecter is left to die, then rescued and placed in a Soviet orphanage.

Does anybody smell revenge tinged with a desperate need to explain why Lecter eats people via a lame sense of irony?

Lecter soon escapes the orphanage and, thanks to the handy-dandy “Indiana Jones Red-Dotted Map That Shows Where You’re Going and Where You’ve Been,” we watch Lecter cross all of Europe in roughly 10 seconds.

Arriving in Paris, Lecter meets Mrs. Murasaki (Li Gong), the smoking hot Japanese wife of his late uncle?who teaches Lecter how to use a samurai sword.

That’s right, Lecter’s Japanese aunt teaches him how to fight like a samurai. She’s Japanese, so she has to, right?

According to Harris’ book of cartoons, yes, all Asians know the ways of martial combat.

What follows is Hannibal’s admittance to medical school, some vague references to his being smart, a few anatomy lessons, a game of cat-and-mouse with a hardnosed detective who knows what the score is but, golly, he’s just too darn stupid to find any evidence aside from the creepy drawings Lecter leaves all over his apartment detailing all of his proposed victims and the methods of their deaths.

Plus, he starts hunting/eating the now-reclusive Soviets to avenge his late sister.

If the summary seems rushed, it’s because frankly, it’s hard to care.

Lecter, portrayed by Gaspard Ulliel (next in line to be dubbed Crispin Glover impersonator of the year), directed blindly by Peter Webber and scribed by aforementioned whore Harris, is, needless to say, in inadequate hands. To summarize briefly: Bad acting paired with bad direction paired with bad writing is just?bad.

Besides, you know Hannibal is going to survive (his presence in the previous three films prove this). As such, the film never allows for the slightest sense of danger to get in Lecter’s way. He kills people, nobody stops him-the end.

The result of this is a near-psychoanalytic distillation of what once was a fairly complex character (and still is, if “Hannibal Rising” is avoided). At times, it feels as though the movie is simply scripted to fit in all the points of explanation needed.

“Oh, he cuts people? Of course, we’ll put him in an anatomy lab!”

Clichd, derivative and failing to explain anything about Lecter without being blunderingly obvious, “Hannibal Rising” is simply a waste of film, two hours and your $7-very similar to a Paris Hilton sex tape, but with surprisingly less substance.

If you like Hannibal Lecter, avoid this movie at all costs.

Otherwise, your image will be tainted by the whore-ish taste of Thomas Harris’ ever-needy greed.

“Ah, yes. My first glass of Chianti. I shall cherish it and perhaps make creepy mention of said beverage at a later time.” Gaspard Ulliel pretends to be Hannibal Lecter in “Hannibal Rising.”