Red Dragon


Directed by: Brett Ratner
Written by:Ted Tally
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Harvey Keitel, Emily Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Released: October 24, 2002
Grade: B+

It’s almost as if we’ve come full loop with Hannibal Lecter.  In 1986, director Michael Mann (Heat, The Insider) adapted the first book of John Harris.  Fairing poorly at the box-office ($8m total) Manhunter starred William Petersen, Joan Allen, Dennis Farina and Brian Cox as Hannibal.  Five years later, director Jonathan Demme took on the second novel and with infamous performances from Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, The Silence Of The Lambs went on to earn five Academy Awards and a hell of a lot of fans.  After an absence of ten more years, the Ridley Scott (Gladiator) directed Hannibal reunited us with our favourite cannibal but most viewers were united in their disappointment.

Now, we go back to the beginning.  Red Dragon is a remake of Manhunter only this time, there’s more money to spend and higher expectations to be met.  There’s also an issue regarding Hannibal himself to resolve.  In Manhunter, Hannibal’s character appeared in only a handful of scenes, but given he’s now what the public wants, he’s practically the star of Red Dragon.

And so on with the show.  FBI detective Will Graham (Norton) was the man responsible for capturing Hannibal Lecter and putting him behind (very secure) bars.  He thereafter retired and moved to Florida with his wife and son.  Obviously though, he’ll be lured back into the game and a link is drawn between two families who were butchered in their own home, Detective Jack Crawford (Keitel) calls Will back to display his expertise.

In was Will’s dissection of the mystery that I found most fascinating about the film.  So often, I see people crack cases with utterly implausible logic and fluke chance.  They look blankly at the screen and they suddenly you see their eyes light up and can almost hear the “click” in their brain.  Whilst there are a few crime solving clichés prevalent here, watching Norton piece the puzzle together is the film’s key.  He makes a few bad calls and reaches a few dead ends but his thought process is realistic.

So where does Anthony Hopkins come into this?  Well, Will goes to Hannibal in his cell to look for assistance in profiling the killer.  These scenes aren’t as enjoyable as those between Hopkins and Foster in The Silence Of The Lambs.  I also question how Hannibal seemed to know so much information about the killer which he expresses to Will through cryptic clues.

The identity of the killer may be unknown to them but it’s not to us. We meet Francis Dolarhyde (Fiennes) early in the film working in a video production store.  As the film follows Will Graham’s pursuit of justice, we also follow Francis courting a blind co-worker (Watson) and plotting his next killing.

Director Brett Ratner seems an unusual choice to direct a film which carries such prestige.  His previous works include Money Talks, Rush Hour, Rush Hour 2 and The Family Man.  He himself was dumbfounded why selected to lead this production.  Ratner does a surprisingly admirable job but a predictably commercial flavour, the film does lack the “scare” factor.

All the performances are awesome with Edward Norton and Harvey Keitel deserving their own special mention.  Norton is up there with the best in the business right now  - will he ever put a foot wrong?  I like Keitel’s portrayal as the detective in charge - he keeps cool and gives his full support to Will in all cases despite the obvious risks in using a retiree.

With publicity abound, posters for Red Dragon are offering us the chance to “meet Hannibal Lecter for the first time”.  I accepted the invitation but wasn’t going to meet the host - the other guests were much more interesting.