Red Dragon

Red Dragon

***

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

First there was Manhunter, in which a retired FBI agent goes to Hannibal Lecter in his cell for advice about a serial killer. Then there was The Silence Of The Lambs, in which a rookie FBI agent goes to Hannibal Lecter in his cell for advice about a serial killer. Now there is Red Dragon, in which a retired FBI agent goes to Hannibal Lecter in his cell for advice about a serial killer.

Are movies stuck in a rut? Is Anthony Hopkins just doing it for money now? Will Hannibal become the Freddy of post-Se7en Shock City?

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Strangely enough, Lecter is the least interesting participant in this remake of Thomas Harris's second novel. He's there as the star attraction, a forensic psychiatrist whose gastronomic indulgences include human body parts. He has the best lines to emphasise an innate intellectual superiority, but, when you think about it, that's all there is to him, since he's locked up 24/7 and his only pleasure is baiting the prison governor.

Will Graham (Edward Norton) is the main man and his investigation into duplicate multiple murders the engine of the plot. He was invalided out of the agency after a violent incident, in which he should have died, and is reluctant to be drawn back in. However, Jack Crawford (Harvey Keitel), an old colleague, persuades him to reconsider. His imaginative qualities as a detective are sorely missed.

Two middle-class families with no connection to each other, living in separate states, have been massacred a month apart during the period of the full moon. The loony (Ralph Fiennes) responsible, a humble technician working for a videotape company, who lives in a gloomy mansion out in the woods, has a hair lip, an appalling history of matriarchal abuse and a William Blake tattoo down his back. He is a shy, repressed oddball with no social skills and a pathological fear of being touched.

Graham's cunning in sifting clues begins to form a pattern of how the murderer operates. His talks with Lecter are more like comic relief, giving Hopkins an opportunity to fool around with some kind of Southern accent. The killer's relationship with a blind girl (Emily Watson) adds colour to what might otherwise have been as incomprehensible as the activities of the skin fetishist in Lambs.

Norton holds the film together. He is such an unselfconscious, natural actor. Fiennes gives it welly. He can't resist diving deep into the sticky recesses of mind waste, with the enthusiasm of a student who wrote his thesis on Norman Bates. As for Hopkins, he pins his face back and does it again - the old pro in the old cell with the old menu.

Reviewed on: 09 Oct 2002
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Remake of Manhunter, in which Hannibal Lecter gives advice to FBI agent on serial killer.
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Director: Brett Ratner

Writer: Ted Tally, based on the novel by Thomas Harris

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Harvey Keitel, Emily Watson, Mary-Louise Parker, Philip Seymour Hoffman

Year: 2002

Runtime: 124 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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