Red Dragon

Year: 2002

Director: Brett Ratner

Written by: Ted Tally

Threat: Psychopath

Weapon of Choice: Pistol

Based upon: novel - Red Dragon - Thomas Harris

IMDb page: IMDb link

      Red Dragon

Other movies in this series:
Silence of the Lambs

Rish's Reviews
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

Sequel skullskull
Sequel setup skull
Rips off earlier film
Horror film showing on TV/in theater in movie
Future celebrity appears
Former celebrity appears
Bad title
Bad premise
Bad acting
Bad dialogue
Bad execution
MTV Editing
Girl unnecessarily gets naked
Wanton sex skull
Death associated with sex
Unfulfilled promise of nudity
Characters forget about threat
Secluded location
Power is cut
Phone lines are cut
Someone investigates a strange noise skull
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
Shower/bath scene
Car stalls or won't start
Cat jumps out
Fake scare
Laughable scare
Stupid discovery of corpse
Dream sequence
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 skull
Flashback sequence
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
Unscary villain/monster
Blood fountain
Blood spatters camera/wall/other skull
Poor death effect
Excessive gore
No one dies at all
Virgin survives
Geek/Nerd survives
Little kid lamely survives
Dog/Pet miraculously survives
Unresolved subplots
"It was all a dream" ending
Unbelievably happy ending
Unbelievably crappy ending
What the hell?