Red Dragon
Dir: Brett Ratner
Star: Anthony Hopkins, Ed Norton, Emily Watson, Ralph Fiennes
Cert / Year: 15 - R / 2002
Format: DVD R2

In the eighties Hannibal Lector (Anthony Hopkins) was helping FBI agent Will Graham (Ed Norton) to catch a cannibal serial killer. That is he was until Graham realised that Lector was the killer. In the struggle to make the arrest Graham was almost fatally wounded but he did manage to apprehend Lector. Years later a new serial killer dubbed the Tooth fairy is murdering whole families and FBI Section Chief Jack Crawford seeks out the now retired Graham to ask for his help. He takes the case but soon realises he isn't going to catch this killer without the help of his old adversary Lector.

The film Red Dragon is the second attempt at bringing the novel of the same name to the cinema screen. The first was the excellent Michael Mann film Manhunter (which we have already reviewed). If the original was so good why the remake? The answer is Hannibal Lector. In the first film Brian Cox gave a brilliantly chilling performance and the evil doctor, but this doesn't fit with the other films in the franchise (Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal) so this remake features Anthony Hopkins reprising the role for the third time. Is this a good idea or was it necessary at all, well read on.

Many people have said that this film is closer to the book than Manhunter. While this is true in respect of the background of the Tooth fairy and the ending, it isn't when you consider the basic premise of the book. Red Dragon was a book about police procedure. It told the story of a tortured ex FBI agent, who was dragged back onto this case. It concentrated on the methods he used to crack the case before he struck again. Red Dragon changes this as the serial killers take central stage. Lector's role was only a brief three scene cameo in the book, it is now a major part in the film. Also a lot of the police procedure has been lost, and a lot less emphasis is placed on the role of Will Graham.

Where this film falls flat on its face is the casting. Ralph Fiennes is probably the worst choice you could make to play the Tooth fairy. This character should have been a tall, well built, odd looking, facially scared albino. There is just no way that Ralph Finnes has the freakiness that the role requires, he is just to good looking. Add this to the fact that he acts like some sort of evil Forest Gump and things go from bad to worse. Tom Noonan is still the definitive actor for this role. Ed Noton's Will Graham is also inferior to that of William L Peterson. He is too happy and displays almost no feeling of the inner turmoil which this character should have. Harvey Kietel is also poor. Thank heavens for Emily Watson and Philip Seymour Hoffman who both put in superb performances.

You may notice I haven't mentioned Anthony Hopkins yet. Well this film provides an opportunity to compare his performance to that of Brian Cox, and I know I'm going to annoy some people with this but he really does suck. Over the last three films he has turned Lector from a scary maniac in a farcical figure more akin to Jim Carey's the Riddler. His performances are unrestrained, over the top and quite frankly ridiculous. Here he chews up scenery, gurning and pontificating like the sad old (too old for this role) ham he has become. This is not a patch on Brian Cox's ice cold, low key, unnerving performance.

Red Dragon has none of the style or quality direction of Manhunter. Brett Ratner is fine with lightweight action comedies, but here he proves he hasn't the ability of Ridley Scott or Michael Mann. Although things progress many scenes just lack any impact. For example the Freddy Lounds wheelchair scene loses nearly all of its ability to shock. Overall this is a very workman like affair, lacking any visual flair.

Red Dragon is another example of a film that should never have been made. Manhunter was, and still is, an excellent film. It's casting was perfect and it captured the feeling of the novel far better than this outing. In fact it is an insult to Manhunter that the studios felt they had to remake it at all. This is just a cynical attempt to cash in on the Hannibal Lector franchise. On its own merits Red Dragon is a passable film, but due to poor casting and uninspired production it is nothing more. For those who haven't watched a version of this book watch Manhunter, for the others give both a try and see what you've missed.

I hope that Thomas Harris isn't planning another novel as I'm not sure just how much more of Anthony Hopkins serial killing of the art of acting I can take. Maybe I'll go mad and start a killing spree of studio executives. Witness my transformation!

Rating: 2 out of 5

Bev's Review

Anthony Hopkins returns in his finest and most chilling performance yet, as the malevolent Dr. Hannibal Lecter. FBI agent Will Graham (Ed Norton) is called out of early retirement to catch a serial killer known as The Tooth Fairy. To stop the brutal murders from continuing, Graham must first let Lecter inside his head.
Prepare to be disturbed as Graham confronts the brilliantly sinister Lecter in this dark and heart-pounding thriller. With an outstanding cast including Oscar Nominees Ralph Fiennes, Emily Watson and Harvey Kietel plus Mary Louise Parker and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

These words appearing on the back of the DVD package. What a load of tosh!! OK, that may be a bit severe, but really!

Once again Anthony Hopkins portrays the mad and bad, crazed but sane serial killer, Hannibal Lecter, the role he first brought to life in the film Silence of the Lambs. If my memory serves me correctly dear Sir Anthony, after the release of Silence of the Lambs, said that he would have to think long and hard about bringing Lecter to the screen again as it had been emotionally draining, having to play such a demanding, deranged role.

Strange then that he should play the role in the following two films, Hannibal and Red Dragon. This then must raise the question was Red Dragon a vehicle for himself and the film studio to make a killing (sorry) at the box office? After all, the film Manhunter, made several years previously to the making of Silence of the Lambs, also based on the first Thomas Harris book Red Dragon was, in my opinion, far superior to the Anthony Hopkins version with a fairer representation of the novel. Letís face it, where did the films opening scene come from? Not the book thatís for sure but it was needed (?) to explain and link together the previous Anthony Hopkins / Hannibal Lector films to the viewer. I can feel a special edition trilogy boxed set of DVDís with hours of extras coming soon at your local retailers.

You may think that I donít like Anthony Hopkins as an actor but far from it, Iíve always admired his work. I find it sad then that he should accept such a role which is well beneath his acting abilities. Mind you, one certainly gets the sense that Sir Anthony is camping it up in some scenes. Whoever decided to give his character a ponytail in the opening sequence, obviously meant to make him appear younger, should be sacked. Unfortunately, the technique used to make Hopkins appear much younger failed to work on his eyes, in my opinion, which still look like an older mans, thus failing to give the required overall illusion.

Ralph Fiennes playing The Tooth Fairy was woefully miscast. He was too weak to play this menacing character who was supposed to have a facial disfigurement which had made him a loner and an outcast with distorted speech and an increasingly warped mind. Unfortunately, lisping a bit with a scar on his upper lip was totally inadequate for this fearful character. Fiennes was both menacing and threatening in Schindlers List as the German army officer and was obviously well cast then but that was a different kind of menacing and threatening. He just couldnít make it seem real in Red Dragon. Bad casting.

Why couldnít FBI agent Jack Crawford be played by the Jack Crawford we had met in both Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal? Why was the role given to Harvey Kietel? Dr. Chilten and Barney the prison guard were played by the original characters but not Crawford. Pretty big continuity error if you ask me, as the end of this film is the start of Silence of the Lambs, right down to the chair placed outside Lecters cell ready for Agent Starlingís visit.

If you have never read the Thomas Harris novels and you just want to be entertained in this genre, Red Dragon will suffice although there are better, more thought provoking films available. If you have read the Thomas Harris trilogy you will be disappointed. It took him ten years to produce Hannibal following Silence of the Lambs. If we are to wait another ten years for the next instalment of the Hannibal story, then that will make Anthony Hopkins in his mid to late 70ís for the next sequel featuring Lecter. A geriatric serial killer! Itíll be OK though. With the advancements of technology and CGI, only a ghost of his character will be required.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5

Picture 2.35:1 Anamorphic Perfectly good transfer.
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 Another great soundtrack.
Features Audio Commentary
Deleted Scenes (extended or alternative scenes)
Inside The Mind Of A Serial Killer featurette
Visual effects, Burning Wheelchair, Make up, and Leeds house crime scene featurettes
A Brett Ratner short film
Storyboard comparison
Anthony Hopkins - Hanibal and me featurette
Verdict Great picture and sound and what would seem a lot of extras. Hold on though most of the extras are very short in length. This 2 disc set isn't as good as it sounds, and whats more it could have easily fitted onto one disc.

Rating: 2 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Link Back Top Home