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Overall Rating

Awesome: 24.19%
Worth A Look39.52%
Average: 14.52%
Pretty Bad: 4.03%
Total Crap: 17.74%

8 reviews, 76 user ratings

Red Dragon
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by EricDSnider

"Meaty, beefy and delicious"
4 stars

1986's "Manhunter" was a competent but unremarkable adpatation of Thomas Harris' 1981 novel "Red Dragon" -- itself a competent but unremarkable psychological thriller that introduced the world to Hannibal Lecter.

Lecter had a small part in the book, and in Michael Mann's film, where he was chillingly portrayed by Brian Cox (recently of "Super Troopers" and "The Rookie"). Lecter resonated, though, and Harris' sequel, "The Silence of the Lambs," gave him a meatier (sorry) role, even though he was serving essentially the same function of helping the FBI catch a killer while messing with an agent's mind.

The film "Silence of the Lambs" (1991) won Anthony Hopkins an Oscar and made Hannibal Lecter a cultural icon, soon to be parodied and imitated by countless other films. That response prompted Harris to write a third book, this time called "Hannibal" and focusing a great deal on its title character.

That book, like the 2001 film that followed it, made the mistake of assuming that because we enjoy a villain in occasional glimpses means we'd like to see him as the main player. In fact, Lecter was better as a small, key figure. He is a cannibal, after all, a distinction that becomes garishly funny rather than scary when administered in large doses.

Which brings us to "Red Dragon," the new film that could be called a remake of "Manhunter" but that is more accurately simply a new adaptation of the original novel.

It is also a prequel to the "Silence of the Lambs" film, casting Hopkins in what has become his signature role, all due respect to Brian Cox (who was offered the part in the 1991 film but turned it down).

It seems neat and orderly to remake "Red Dragon" with Hopkins. It was messy to have to name two actors who had played Lecter; now we can say it's Hopkins' role and let "Manhunter" and Brian Cox become footnotes.

But "Red Dragon," directed by Brett Ratner ("Rush Hour"), is more than an obsessive-compulsive completion of a set. It is, in its own right, a thrilling and compelling film, meeting the dual goals of telling a good story and satisfying the morbid cravings of an audience dying to see more of Hannibal Lecter.

Lecter, whom Hopkins still plays with unblinking manical glee, is given more to do than the novel gave him, but not so much that he becomes gratuitous.

Taken on their own, Lecter's contributions to this film would be creepy but not extraordinary. "Red Dragon" works best as a prequel -- a film that takes place before, but was made after, the others. We are given goosebumps by him mostly because of his reputation, even though the events that earned it for him have not, technically, happened yet.

In a fantastic prologue that reads like the climax of a different movie -- may I suggest another prequel? -- we meet both Lecter and FBI agent Will Graham (Edward Norton). Graham, injured by Lecter in his capture of him, retires from the force and adopts a passive lifestyle in Florida, fixing boats and lazing about with his wife Molly (Mary-Louise Parker) and son Josh (Tyler Patrick Jones).

His ability to understand the thought processes of psychopaths, which made him a legend in law enforcement, was a burden, too. He is glad to let it lie dormant.

It is with reluctance, then, that he accepts the call of FBI buddy Jack Crawford (Harvey Keitel) to help catch a new killer. He has murdered two families on successive full moons; it seems likely he will strike again. There are few clues. Graham's expertise -- and his unsettling rapport with evil genius Lecter, now imprisoned -- are needed.

Old wounds are reopened. Graham has to face Lecter again; he is once more hounded by sleazy tabloidist Freddy Lounds (Philip Seymour Hoffman, once again brilliant as a mealy-mouthed loser); and his unique "gift" for thinking like a murderer returns.

Not much time is lost before we meet our maniac of the month. He is Francis Dolarhyde, a cleft-palated loner who works at a film-developing plant (coincidental with Robin Williams' perfectionist loner who works at a one-hour photo in "One Hour Photo"). He is played with subtle, crafty schizophrenia by Ralph Fiennes, whose steely blue stare matches Hopkins' and whose performance also recalls that of another Anthony -- Perkins, in "Psycho." (Norman Bates and Francis Dolarhyde share a few maternal issues, too.)

Both Edward Norton and his character seem overwhelmed by their portentous surroundings, lost amid the shrieking musical score and more interesting performances. Norton is fine, but he looks too young and frail. When it's over, you may have forgotten he was in the film.

The screenplay is by Ted Tally, who won an Oscar for his "Silence of the Lambs" adaptation. He has masterfully streamlined and focused Harris' novel, cutting out the extraneous parts and altering the ending just enough to give it a clever twist without changing the outcome.

He has also added a postscript that eerily sets up "Silence of the Lambs." George Lucas can only dream of creating a prequel as organic, effective and ominous as this one.

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originally posted: 10/05/02 08:45:53
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User Comments

3/25/18 morris campbell not bad but the book is the best version of this story 3 stars
6/27/14 Monday Morning Biting someone's lips off - definitely will hurt the guy on the dating scene. 4 stars
2/09/14 Captain pooper-scooper. Aww yeaa. U get wit dis, u get wit dat, u get wit dis. Shoots dang! Ting! Is good film! 5 stars
2/08/13 Jeff Wilder Entertaining but pointless. Wathc Manhunter instead. 2 stars
2/10/10 Alex Thorne better than it has every right to be. Fiennes is the highlight here 4 stars
4/24/09 GordonD Dull, lifeless cash-in, made solely to have a trilogy with Hopkins. 2 stars
3/03/08 ladavies I preferred Manhunter. 3 stars
10/15/07 Sandy Sussman Bestest movie I ever Seen 1 stars
8/02/07 Indrid Cold At least Hannibal was fresh and entertaining. This is competent but just a retread of SOTL. 3 stars
6/20/07 Muted Orbz Michael Mannhunter was Lifetime network dull. This was a 360. 5 stars
1/10/07 harry fucking shit 5 stars
12/31/06 del What was wrong with MANHUNTER? Everything - sadly, this IS superior. Deal with it. 4 stars
12/16/06 David Pollastrini good gore. 4 stars
9/22/06 Alyssa Hale Excellent movie! The actors were great! 5 stars
6/22/06 TB Little okay suspense movie 3 stars
4/04/06 Billy Joe Williams Awesome movie. Had to watch it a couple of times but it was great every time. 5 stars
12/26/05 chris truly a masterpeice.... 5 stars
9/25/05 Hotdog Lazy..Desperate..Cash Grubbing...Cynical...Amateurish...Criminal Rehash of a Classic 1 stars
8/18/05 ES Better than silence and hannibal 4 stars
4/26/05 E-FUNK Brett Ratner takes 'Manhunter' and turns it into 'Man-chowder'. Unnecessary and insulting. 1 stars
3/25/05 dwarzel what was wrong with Manhunter? 1 stars
3/07/05 R.W. Welch About as good as Manhunter though it gets pretty hokey towards the end. 4 stars
11/24/04 Steve Newman The Dragon tattoo is fantastic. Great film, well acted, very enjoyable, go watch. 4 stars
11/15/04 zsuzsanna Exciting, wonderfully played. 5 stars
10/01/04 Cannabinoid fallopian tube WICKED!!! (in the best way) 5 stars
4/07/04 Sig This redeems itself from "Hannibal" 5 stars
2/25/04 Dr.Lecter Better than the shallow, lifeless Manhunter in every way 5 stars
2/04/04 LIAM JACKSON ratner's biggest wank-fest to date. manhunter was a classic 1 stars
2/02/04 Samuel norton and hopkins give great performances, but the killer is a skinny guy who isnt scary 4 stars
12/07/03 john an abysmal attempt at a thriller - Michael Mann shot the same story better 20 years ago 1 stars
11/17/03 KING EDWARD bill rooney- i sincerely hope your whole family dies. i hope i can be the one to kill them. 5 stars
9/14/03 the dragon hey daniel p holla- what's with the faggot name? R.D. IS THE BEST. may you die soon, queer. 5 stars
8/28/03 Mr. Hat Great: the movie and the fact that the director of Money Talks & Rush Hour did this. 4 stars
8/19/03 snowconehead I tad bit obligatory, but decent enough to sit through 3 stars
8/14/03 Jeannie Karlsen RALPH FIENNES is my GOD! He is a brilliant actor in an o.k movie. Still bought it though. 4 stars
6/22/03 Daniel P Holla Anyone who thought this movie was watchable should be strung up by their toes 1 stars
6/19/03 gray Fails to affect on any level. Cast, direction, script... all mundane. 2 stars
6/06/03 Charles Tatum Competent direction and cast, but nothing new; better than Hannibal 4 stars
4/04/03 othree equals to Silence, great casting, through, 1st rate Hopkins' Hannibal 4 stars
3/17/03 Paul Coleman Suprisingly boring. See Michael Mann's MANHUNTER instead. 2 stars
2/24/03 the pilgrim my all time favorite- fiennes IS dolorhyde- 'manhunter' be damned!! 5 stars
1/02/03 Elizaveta Gotta love Edward Norton - not as great as "silence" though. 5 stars
12/15/02 David A. Great movie, but Dolarhyde could have grown a mustache! (Dr. Evil would tell me to ZIP IT!) 4 stars
12/12/02 Monster W. Kung Jesus Christ, what's the all-time idiot Sommersby doing in here? Fuck off! 3 stars
11/26/02 malcolm read the book, see Manhunter 3 stars
11/12/02 Phoenix A really good movie with solid performances, although I think Manhunter is better. 5 stars
11/03/02 Obi Wan Don't see why this was such a big deal . .it was slow moving and dull 3 stars
11/02/02 Monster W. Kung Well, I don't find any of the movies with Lecter very impressive. Average (like Silence). 3 stars
11/02/02 Angelo Defanti BEtter than "Manhunter" 5 stars
11/01/02 Shaun I love this movie, so much better then Manhunter 5 stars
10/26/02 j. c. really great and creepy, your attacks were too harsh 5 stars
10/25/02 Jim The Movie Freak Responds Actually you cried when you saw the size of my cock, Choadushouse 1 stars
10/21/02 marzio It's well done, but we did not need it! Mann's Manhunter was better 3 stars
10/18/02 Matthew Smith far superior than Hannibal and Manhunter, one of the year's most enjoyable thrillers 5 stars
10/16/02 .Choadushouse. Jim the Freak sucks my cock. This was good. I cried for love and intensity. 4 stars
10/15/02 Mike This guy is actually a movie reviewer? hes pretty narrow minded... 5 stars
10/14/02 KMG That's ONE FIENNES DICK you have there, Ralph! 5 stars
10/13/02 "Yes the shit." This director should be fucking killed. All the talent involved was raped by this fuck. 1 stars
10/12/02 Xxtreme Really good, way better than hannibal. Almost as good as silence of the lambs 4 stars
10/11/02 Butterbean I agree with Jim that Dolarhyde's character was underdeveloped. But its a great movie! 4 stars
10/10/02 Hawaiiantomboy07 Loved It! It was better than "Manhunter". 5 stars
10/10/02 Melina Great acting and suspense. 5 stars
10/10/02 TimmyTomorrow I thought this was a comedy! 2 stars
10/08/02 Anarchy Azmi jim...please fuck off 4 stars
10/08/02 wintermute Most of the film has thankfully started to fade from my mind. 3 stars
10/07/02 Frankie Ran circles around "Hannibal". Perfect casting! 5 stars
10/06/02 Uncle Salty Well it was better than Hannibal. Then again, the stuff in the waffle on my shoe was too. 3 stars
10/06/02 Topplebot Surprisingly not a hack piece of shit. Norton's great, story's good, Fiennes delivers again 5 stars
10/06/02 ajay very nice. 5 stars
10/06/02 Mike One of the best films so far this year. 5 stars
10/06/02 Roy Smith A great movie with a fantastic opening and a great ending! 4 stars
10/06/02 Nicole So much better than Hannibal. Everything a GOOD psychological thriller should be. 4 stars
10/05/02 jarrod_101 True to the awesome book. a bit slow moving but still very very good. 5 stars
10/05/02 Buddha Are you nuts? Hannibal sucked like a Hoover. Thankfully, this didn't. 5 stars
10/05/02 ryan phillippe gets hit by a car and it rules Hannibal didn't suck, and I hope when you say the origional you don't mean Manhunter. 5 stars
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  04-Oct-2002 (R)



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