Director: Brett Ratner
Written by: Ted Tally
Weapon of Choice: Pistol
Based upon: novel - Red Dragon - Thomas Harris
Other movies in this series:
Silence of the Lambs
Due to the tremendous success of 2001's Hannibal, producer Dino De Laurentiis rushed this film into production, a prequel based on the first Hannibal Lecter novel by Thomas Harris and previously filmed (in 1986) as Manhunter. Brett Ratner, the 9 year old director of the Rush Hour films directed this version, a real change of pace from his previous work.
Red Dragon tells the tale of FBI agent Will Graham, the gifted profiler who brought Hannibal Lecter to justice a few years back. After his run-in with Dr. Lecter, Graham has retired to Miami with his wife and son, but when a new madman murders two entire families, his old boss, Jack Crawford asks him to help with the investigation. Eventually, this brings Graham back to the brilliant psychiatrist he consulted with on other serial murder cases, and eventually found to be the grand-daddy of psychopaths. While Graham tries to identify the killer, known by the tabloids as "The Tooth Fairy," before he strikes again, the killer (an admirer of Lecter's) also uses the good doctor's help to get at Graham.
Edward Norton gives another good performance as Will Graham, showing determination and heroism, but more impressively, apprehension and fear. Sir Anthony Hopkins is really nice in his most famous role (as usual), this time bringing a darker, crueler edge to the Dr. Lecter character than in the other two films (something that struck me during the reading of the novel this past summer). But every once in a while, it seemed he was doing a caricature of his earlier performances, and I didn't know how to feel about that. Ralph Fiennes was appropriately frightening as the Tooth Fairy, with a cleft palate, a shy, unpredictable nature, and a naked, tattooed body. The rest of the cast was really great, from Harvey Keitel as Crawford (although I would've preferred Scott Glenn reprise his role), Phillip Seymour Hoffman as scumbag reporter Lounds, and Emily Watson as the blind woman who becomes involved with the Tooth Fairy, Reba McClane. Also returning from Lambs were Frankie Faison as Barney the Orderly, and good old Anthony Heald as the pompous Dr. Chilton.
Though Manhunter was quite faithful to the novel, Red Dragon is even more so. The screenplay, by Silence of the Lambs's screenwriter Ted Tally, is great, using scenes from the first two books to make a solid, ironic connection to Lambs that Manhunter couldn't have had. And when Red Dragon works, it really works. But when it doesn't . . . it's still pretty darn good.
I had heard that it was quite talky, and it was, but compellingly so, with clever dialogue and interesting twists and turns. The fantastic opening scenes were my favourite part of the picture, and it was fun to see people squirm while I laughed. There's a nice twist toward the end of the film that worked amazingly well, considering in the book it was revealed through the limited point-of-view of a blind woman.
The film, like the novel and alternate movie, spends a great deal of time with Francis Dollarhyde, the depraved Tooth Fairy serial killer, who imagines himself as the Great Red Dragon from the William Blake painting. But as the other version bothered me with making us sympathize too much with the killer, I felt this version got it just right, showing us that he was human, but that he was also as crazy as a loon in a tin shithouse. Mixed metaphors notwithstanding, the killer was appropriately frightening, similar to Buffalo Bill in Silence of the Lambs in that his savagery is a nice foil to Lecter's thoughtful, soft-voiced evil.
This was more of a horror film than was Manhunter, but less gory than the other two Hopkins Lecter flicks. It was disturbing, however, especially when Graham analyses the killings, and the subject matter is just as bleak and grotesque as the others (particularly when we see what the Tooth Fairy is capable of). My main complaint with Manhunter was the way they got us to feel for the killer too much, and dispatched him way too easily. This version didn't have those problems, and was ultimately more satisfying, and certainly fits better alongside the other two films. It still wasn't as classy and unique as Lambs was, but exceeded Hannibal in those regards.
I'd Recommend It To: Lecter fans, alive or dead.
Total Skulls: 7
|Rips off earlier film|
|Horror film showing on TV/in theater in movie|
|Future celebrity appears|
|Former celebrity appears|
|Girl unnecessarily gets naked|
|Death associated with sex|
|Unfulfilled promise of nudity|
|Characters forget about threat|
|Power is cut|
|Phone lines are cut|
|Someone investigates a strange noise|
|Someone runs up stairs instead of going out front door|
|Camera is the killer|
|Victims cower in front of a window/door|
|Victim locks self in with killer|
|Victim running from killer inexplicably falls|
|Toilet stall scene|
|Car stalls or won't start|
|Cat jumps out|
|Stupid discovery of corpse|
|No one believes only witness|
|Crazy, drunk, old man knows the truth|
|Warning goes unheeded|
|Music detracts from scene|
|Death in first five minutes|
|x years before/later|
|Dark and stormy night|
|Killer doesn't stay dead|
|Killer wears a mask|
|Killer is in closet|
|Killer is in car with victim|
|Villain is more sympathetic than heroes|
|Blood spatters camera/wall/other|
|Poor death effect|
|No one dies at all|
|Little kid lamely survives|
|Dog/Pet miraculously survives|
|"It was all a dream" ending|
|Unbelievably happy ending|
|Unbelievably crappy ending|
|What the hell?|