Red Dragon

Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 10/05/02 05:29:09

"Believe the hype. This is a damn good flick."
4 stars (Worth A Look)

Fans of Silence of the Lambs who felt let down by the crummy sequel, Hannibal, are in for a treat. Red Dragon, while still not on a par with the inspired original, is as good a prequel as anyone could hope for. Impeccably cast and well directed, this moody thriller will shock, disgust, but ultimately intrigue all but the most cynical viewer. Sir Anthony Hopkins is, as always, tremendous as Hannibal Lecter, but thankfully ample room is also given to the co-stars - Ed Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Harvey Keitel and Emily Watson - so that they can take their story and make it convincing without the entire film being hijacked by Hopkins' screen presence. Indeed, you could almost say this is a story unto itself, with a single character that audiences have come to adore being used to give it added spice.

A serial killer is killing entire familes around the USA and though a famed former FBI serial killer chaser is long retired, without any solid clues to go on the feds opt to call up the man who put away Hannibal the Cannibal and beg him for one last case.

Ed Norton, as said FBI man, is completely as good as you'd expect him to be. Of course, he'll never burn through a film again like he did in American History X, but if there's one thing Norton can always be counted on, it's to turn up and be convincing in a role.

Leaving his family behind, Norton takes on the famed mind of Hannibal Lecter in a series of jailside interviews (a la Silence of the Lambs) that at once give him clues, but also suck him and his family deeper into the crime itself.

While Red Dragon does have its flaws - Lecter all but disappears after act one, but for a cursory closing scene to tie the sequels together - they can largely be forgiven due to the fact that this is indeed a movie worth the ticket price. Director Brett Ratner, yes the same guy who helmed the Rush Hour films and the awful Double Take, pulls off a tough gig by allowing the actors to act, giving each ample room to do their thing without being battered by musical scores or music-video jump cuts or fake scares. If anything, Red Dragon sometimes drags into predictable ground, but if that's the fault of anyone, you'd have to blame the original source material, not what was done with it.

The cynics will claim this one isn't terrifying enough, but those people are missing the point. This isn't a horror movie, it's a thriller. It's a psychological dickfight between cop, killer and the man stuck between both. If you look at this film like it should be Silence of the Lambs 2, you'll be disappointed because that's not what it's going for. What it goes for is a little thought, a little intrigue, a little terror and a bit of a mind-fuck.

In fact, Ratner does such a fine job with his cast that you might even be surprised to find yourself rooting for the bad guy (Ralph Fiennes) from time to time, especially when he seems to fall for a blind co-worker (Emily Watson). Their brief romance is played out so well by Ratner that I'd almost forgive him for the rampant racism and hokey humor of the Rush Hour films.

Fiennes makes an incredible villain, far more interesting than any of the 'good guys' of his past. In fact, it wouldn't surprise if both Fiennes and Norton found themselves in Oscar contention at year's end, though you can bet that politics will see Hopkins bump one or both out of the spotlight.

Yes, it could have been better, but that doesn't mean it's not very damn good. In a sea of awful films this year it stands out like few have as well worth a few hours of your life.

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