Reviewed by Dave Luttig
Directed by Brett Ratner
Starring Anthony Hopkins, Ed Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Emily Watson
Red Dragon is a remake of Michael Mann's 1986 thriller Manhunter. They both detail events prior to Clarise Starling meeting Hannibal Lecter in Jonathan Demme's 1991 Oscar winner, The Silence of the Lambs. Lecter was, after all, imprisoned long before Jodie Foster nervously inched down that hallway of decadence and insanity that first time. Considering the genius exhibited by Lecter throughout Lambs, somebody had to have been pretty smart to outwit him, right?
Meet Will Graham, FBI Agent extraordinaire. Edward Norton (Primal Fear, American History X, and The Score) plays Graham and early on, we see Graham's ingenuity at bagging Lecter; it's not the way most cops want to nab their man, I'm sure.
Graham retires to Florida after his, uh, "intellect" heals where Jack Crawford, played by the ineffaceable Harvey Keitel (U-571, Reservoir Dogs, The Bad Lieutenant), calls him out of retirement. There's another serial killer on the loose and the FBI apparently can't solve the case without him. After the clichéd scene with the wife who doesn't want him to go (with dialogue so bad I gagged), Graham is off to conduct his own investigations. Not surprisingly, he immediately finds clues everyone missed.
But there are things Graham can't figure, so he visits Lecter, portrayed deliciously (bad pun) as usual by Anthony Hopkins (although a bit over the top compared to his subdued, sinister performances in Lambs and Hannibal). A battle of wits ensues between them while the clock is ticking until the killer strikes again.
Ralph Fiennes is the killer, Francis Dolarhyde. Noted for his two Oscar-nominated roles as Nazi SS Officer Amon Gothe in Schindler's List and Laszlo de Almásy in The English Patient, Fiennes' frenetic performance reminded me why some folks didn't like Robin Williams in One Hour Photo (they couldn't fathom Mork doing such dastardly things); same deal here in that you know it's Ralph all along. That's why I loved him in Schindler's List. At the time, I had never heard of him, making his ice cold Gothe even more horrific.
Anthony Heald and Frankie Faison reprise their roles as Dr. Chilton and prison attendant Barney Matthews respectively. Emily Watson is riveting as Reba McClane. And the underrated Phillip Seymore Hoffman plays the sleazy tabloid reporter Freddie Lounds, who gets what all sleazy tabloid reporters would get in real life if people had their way.
I'd be remiss if I didn't compare both films and their relationship to Lambs. William Peterson initially played Graham, looking more appropriate in the part than Norton. Brian Cox played the original Lecter, bringing an everyday quality to the man lacking in the aloof portrayal Hopkins gives Hannibal. Cox's Lecter also only had a small part in Manhunter; in Red Dragon, Lecter is the star. Lastly, Tom Noonan was Mann's Dolarhyde and, because nobody had ever really seen him before, his was a more frightening character than Lecter. That's why Ted Levine as Jame Gumb in Lambs was so unnerving - you actually thought the producers went out and got a real serial killer for the role.
Red Dragon does, however, add elements that Lambs had in the way of suspense and tension that Manhunter didn't, especially in the climatic scene. The finale is somewhat predictable, although it will hold your interest. Regardless, you'll be locking your doors tonight.
review by Dave Luttig 2003
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