The continuing saga of Hannibal Lecter, the murdering cannibal. He is presently in Italy and works as a curator at a museum. Clarice Starling, the FBI agent whom he aided to apprehend a serial killer, was placed in charge of an operation but when one of her men botches it, she's called to the mat by the Bureau. One high ranking official, Paul Krendler has it in for her. But she gets a reprieve because Mason Verger, one of Lecter's victims who is looking to get back at Lecter for what Lecter did to him, wants to use Starling to lure him out. When Lecter sends her a note she learns that he's in Italy so she asks the police to keep an eye out for him. But a corrupt policeman who wants to get the reward that Verger placed on him, tells Verger where he is. But they fail to get him. Later Verger decides to frame Starling which makes Lecter return to the States. And the race to get Lecter begins.
Part three in the Hannibal Lecter Quadrilogy. Having escaped the asylum in "Silence of the Lambs," Dr Lecter goes into hiding in Florence, Italy. Back in America, Mason Verger, an old victim of the doctor's, seeks revenge. Disfigured and confined to a life-support system, he plans to draw Lecter out of his hiding place, using the one thing he truly cares for: Clarice Starling.
After having successfully eluded the authorities for years, Hannibal peacefully lives in Italy in disguise as an art scholar. Trouble strikes again when he is discovered leaving a deserving few dead in the process. He returns back to America to once again make contact with now disgraced Agent Clarice Starling who is suffering the wrath of a malicious FBI official/rival as well as the media. Meanwhile, Hannibal must survive the advances by a disfigured and vengeful victim he first came in contact with years ago as a patient. He finds himself being tracked down not only by his wealthy victim and his henchmen but also by Agent Starling and the American authorities.
Living in exile, Hannibal Lecter tries to reconnect with now disgraced F.B.I. Agent Clarice Starling, and finds himself a target for revenge from a powerful victim.
- The film takes place 10 years after the events depicted in The Silence of the Lambs (1991). In the opening scene, Barney, one of Hannibal Lecter's minders at the Baltimore mental hospital, talks to a disfigured and paraplegic man, Mason Verger (Gary Oldman), about the conversations Barney had with Lecter and Lecter's relationship with Clarice Starling. Barney then shows Verger a boxed object he's brought with him: the leather restraining mask used to cover Lecter's face when he was being transported. Barney asks for a price of $250,000 for it and Verger eagerly accepts.
FBI agent Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore) is in Washington DC, leading a raid to arrest an HIV-positive drug dealer named Evelda Drumgo (Hazelle Goodman). Though Starling has laid out precise plans to the arresting team, the raid is horrifically botched when one of the agents rushes Drumgo and her gang after Starling orders them to stand down because Drumgo is carrying an infant. A massive gunfight breaks out and most of Drumgo's gang are killed, along with a few of the agents. When Clarice orders Drumgo to surrender, Drumgo whips out a machine pistol and opens firing, hitting Clarice. Clarice responds reflexively and shoots and kills Drumgo, splattering the infant with her blood. Clarice, who had been wearing a bulletproof vest, recovers the child and washes it off with a nearby hose. Starling is disgraced by Justice Department official Paul Krendler (Ray Liotta), whose romantic advances Starling had rejected years earlier.
As a result of the publicity surrounding the drug raid, Starling and her past connection to escaped serial killer Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) come to the attention of one of Lecter's victims, Mason Verger, who is also a wealthy, sadistic pedophile. Verger, who was left horrifically disfigured and paralyzed by a past encounter with Lecter himself, still seeks revenge for what occurred. He uses his political influence to have Starling assigned to the Lecter case once again in the hope that this will draw Lecter out of hiding.
Verger claims to have new information about Lecter (an X-ray), which he is willing to disclose only to Starling, and she is sent to his estate to collect it and interview him. Upon her arrival, Verger tells Starling about his history with Lecter. They met when Lecter was assigned by a court as Verger's therapist after Verger's conviction on multiple counts of child molestation. Verger, the only one of Lecter's victims to survive, was tricked into mutilating himself by Lecter after being given a nitrogen "popper". In the same incident, Verger was also persuaded by Lecter into sexual excitation by strangulation. Verger is now bedridden and confined to his secluded mansion, but with the assistance of his personal physician Cordell (Zeljko Ivanek) and other minions, he is pursuing an elaborate scheme to capture, torture and kill Lecter.
In Florence, Italy, Chief Inspector Rinaldo Pazzi (Giancarlo Giannini) of the Questura is investigating the disappearance of the curator of the Capponi Library, a Renaissance palace that serves as a repository of rare books, historical documents and art treasures. In the course of his investigation, Pazzi meets the new curator: "Dr. Fell," who is actually Hannibal Lecter.
As Verger surmised, Lecter soon learns of Starling's public disgrace and reassignment to his case, and he sends her a letter that is at once sympathetic and mocking. The letter contains no apparent clue to Lecter's whereabouts, but Starling detects a strange fragrance on it. She takes it to a perfume company, where the experts inform her that the writer used a very expensive skin cream that could have been sold in only a few shops in the world, one of which is in Florence.
Starling contacts the police departments of the cities where the shops are located, including Pazzi's department, asking for copies of any surveillance tapes made by cameras installed in the shops. When Pazzi sees one of his men making a copy of such a tape for Starling, he recognizes "Fell" in the tape and decides to find out why the FBI is interested in him. Pazzi accesses the FBI's database of fugitive criminals and learns that "Fell" is Hannibal Lecter. He also learns that Verger is offering a reward of $3 million to anyone who assists him in capturing Lecter in lieu of turning him over to the FBI (who offer a $250,000 reward). Hoping to collect the larger bounty, Pazzi makes contact with Verger's people and agrees to help them kidnap Lecter. Starling, meanwhile, has received the surveillance tape from Florence, has recognized Lecter, and has learned that Pazzi has been using the FBI's database to check on Lecter. She calls Pazzi and warns him against trying to capture Lecter himself, but Pazzi ignores her warning.
Pazzi coerces a local pickpocket into wearing a cheap bracelet and attempting to rob Lecter. The pickpocket follows Lecter through the streets of Florence. When he reaches for Lecter's wallet, Lecter grabs him by the wrist (and the bracelet) and slyly stabs the man in the upper leg, severing his femoral artery. Pazzi finds the thief and takes the bracelet from him, leaving him to bleed to death on the street. Pazzi sends the bracelet with Lecter's prints to Verger who has them confirmed as Lecter's.
Pazzi and Verger's men try to kidnap Lecter after his scheduled evening lecture on the poetry of Dante to a group of scholars at the Palazzo Vecchio, but their plan goes badly awry. Lecter interrogates Pazzi, forcing him to answer several questions by threatening to kill and eat Pazzi's wife. Lecter murders Pazzi by first slashing open the man's abdomen and then throwing him off an upper floor balcony with a noose around his neck, his entrails falling from his abdomen to the street -- the same fate of one of Pazzi's ancient ancestors. Lecter escapes, deciding to return to the United States to renew his acquaintance with Starling.
Frustrated by the failed attempt to kidnap Lecter, Verger tries to draw him out of hiding once again by getting Starling into more trouble. He bribes Krendler to accuse her of withholding a note she received from Lecter. The ploy works, and Starling is suspended from duty. Verger's men keep her under surveillance in the hope that Lecter will contact her. Lecter, meanwhile, has been watching her and also watching Krendler. Lecter then buys china and crystal for an elaborate meal and also steals surgical equipment from a hospital. He takes everything to a secluded lakefront house that he has learned belongs to Krendler.
Lecter then contacts Starling, luring her to Washington's Union Station for a meeting. Verger's men follow her there. As Starling looks for Lecter among the crowd of travelers and shoppers at the station, she and Lecter converse by cell phone. He expresses his admiration for her and his sympathy for the shabby treatment she has received from the FBI, at one point suggesting that he might force the people who have disrespected her to "scream apologies."
Having spotted Lecter, Verger's men capture him in the station's parking lot despite Starling's efforts to stop them. Starling makes a fruitless attempt to expose Verger's scheme to the FBI. Meanwhile, Verger's men transport Lecter to the Verger estate. Verger plans to watch Lecter being eaten alive by a herd of vicious wild boars that Verger, an expert at swine breeding from his days in the family meatpacking business, has prepared in Italy especially for the purpose.
When the FBI refuses to act on her report that Verger has kidnapped Lecter, Starling goes alone to Verger's estate. She intervenes as Verger's henchmen are about to unleash the pigs on Lecter, shooting the men and freeing him, but she is shot and wounded in the shoulder. Lecter then rescues her from the animals. When a furious Verger orders his physician Cordell to shoot Lecter, Lecter persuades Cordell (who has always hated his master) to throw Verger into the pen with the hogs instead, and Verger dies in the very manner in which he had hoped to kill Lecter, Lecter having assured Cordell he will take the blame for the deed.
Lecter takes Starling to Krendler's lakefront house and treats her bullet wound. She awakens in an upstairs bedroom, dressed for a formal occasion. On her way downstairs, she finds a phone and calls the police. Instead of taking their advice and leaving the house to wait for their arrival, she looks for Lecter downstairs. She finds him in the dining room where he has set the table as if for an elegant dinner party, watched by the seated Krendler, who has been heavily drugged. As Starling looks on, horrified, Lecter removes the top of Krendler's skull, cuts out part of his brain (the part that Lecter says is "associated with good manners"), sautés it in a pan by the table, and feeds it to the dazed Krendler. Clarice is horrified, pleading with Lecter to stop and saying she'll give him the details of the FBI's profile on him so he can escape.
When Lecter wheels Krendler back to the kitchen to clear up after the "meal," Starling attacks him with a silver candlestick but is easily overpowered. Lecter traps her ponytailed hair in the fridge. He asks her, "Tell me Clarice, would you ever say to me, 'Stop ... if you loved me, you'd stop'?" To which Starling replies, "Not in a thousand years." Lecter replies with, "That's my girl," then kisses Starling. Just as he is about to leave, thinking he's won, he hears a click and sees that Starling has handcuffed his wrist to her own. When she refuses to provide the key, Lecter pins her wrist to a table and brandishes a meat cleaver. He raises it and says, "This is really going to hurt." and swings it down -- a noticeable look of pain appears on Clarice's face. Next we see Starling outside the house, looking for Lecter, who escaped just before the police cars arrived. Both her hands are intact.
The last scene is of Lecter on an airplane, one of his arms is in a sling and his hand is not visible. He is preparing to eat the boxed meal he has brought with him, and the small boy sitting next to him asks about the food. Lecter opens the container to reveal several kinds of food, among which is what appears to be part of Krendler's brain, cooked and sliced. The boy asks to try some of the food, and Lecter allows him to, after saying that his mother always told him to try new things. It is not shown if the boy chooses the brain.