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Red Dragon

Universal // R // October 4, 2002
List Price: Unknown

Review by Todd Siechen | posted October 3, 2002 | E-mail the Author
There is a very obvious risk with a film like this in the inevitable comparison to Michael Manns adaptation of the book "Red Dragon" by Thomas Harris in his film, Manhunter. I am a huge fan of Michael Manns work and have seen Manhunter many times. Despite my efforts, its very difficult not to think of this when viewing "Red Dragon", directed by Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, The Family Man), and adapted for the screen by Ted Tally (Silence of the Lambs). "Red Dragon" is the prequel to "Silence of the Lambs" which is the prequel to "Hannibal" for those who aren't familiar with the Trilogy of Books of the same name all written by Thomas Harris. I have not read the Novels so I cannot speak to the accuracy of either film in their loyalty to the books. I don't consider this film a remake as much as a different adaptation of the book.

As much as I try to purge any expectations with any new films it was difficult to do here knowing that the brilliant Anthony Hopkins was to thrill us again with his gripping rendition of Hannibal Lector. Also lending to the expectation was Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel and Ralph Fiennes who rarely fail to satisfy audiences. Edward Norton plays Wil Graham, an FBI agent who profiles murderers and who is responsible for catching Dr. Hannibal Lector, the twisted forensic psychologist. Unlike Manhunter, we actually get to see the incident when Graham catches Lector to open the movie. Graham is pulled back in reluctantly to help in the profiling of Francis Dollarhyde, "The Tooth Fairy" (Ralph Fiennes) who kills whole families in order to satisfy his twisted thirst.

In his frustration Graham goes to Lector to seek help in catching Dollarhyde. These meetings between Lector and Graham are engrossing. We get to see a great deal more interaction here between the 2 characters than we did in Manhunter. Norton does a great job of portraying Wil Graham, but I have to say I thought he didn't seem worn out enough and disturbed enough by what he was going through in his process of getting into the murderers head. I liked William Petersons version of Graham in Manhunter as he was a bit older and seemed very tired and exhausted emotionally from his constant exposure to such sickness in profiling the killer. The grisly nature of the crimes is something easily portrayed with shocking and disturbing imagery, but surprisingly this is left to a minimum in Red Dragon. Ratner instead leaves much of it up to the audiences imagination. Ralph Fiennes is truly wicked as Francis Dollarhyde, but gives a very memorable, albeit different sort of character performance than we see in Tom Noonans version from Manhunter. Credit for a very noteworthy performance must also go to Emily Watson for her portrayal of Reba McClane, the love interest of Francis Dollarhyde. Definitely as good as the very talented Joan Allen did with the character in Manhunter.

The musical score is somewhat typical and fitting for this film, but not quite as original or punchy as I had hoped for a film such as this. The visuals and cinematography are nothing particularly original either, but certainly not bad by any means. The production design is really fantastic. Its obvious a lot of time and thought went into designing the sets and lighting. Certainly nothing as disturbing or elaborate as "Seven", but very good none-the-less.

Summary: This film is very good. I will admit it fell a little short of my expectations, but I still really liked it. I realize my expectations were formed primarily with my knowledge of Michael Manns "Manhunter", but I do everything I can to give this film a chance to make its own mark in the minds of the audience. I look forward to viewing it again and I give it a good solid recommendation.




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