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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

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Red Dragon
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by Rob Gonsalves

"Needless but still diverting."
4 stars

The most fun part of 'Red Dragon' is over before the opening credits end, but don't take that as a slam at the rest of the 124 minutes; it's just that screenwriter Ted Tally (who also adapted Thomas Harris' 'The Silence of the Lambs') has imagined a sort of "never-before-seen" Hannibal Lecter in the moments before he got caught and put away for nine consecutive life sentences.

Lecter, sporting a dashing little ponytail (that sounds really wrong for him, but trust me, it looks right), amuses his fellow Baltimore Orchestra board members over a concoction of his making. Later, dogged FBI agent Will Graham shows up at his door with a hunch that the killer that Lecter has been helping him profile may be ... eating bits of his victims. Lecter, in one of Anthony Hopkins' hilarious career-best moments, just about keeps a straight face. It's all terribly nudge-nudge-wink-wink, a bit of lagniappe for the fans, and it goes down like fine wine.

The rest of Red Dragon hews fairly close to Harris' 1981 source novel, which was filmed before, in 1986, by Michael Mann as Manhunter. Will Graham, played with restless, fidgety intelligence by Edward Norton, is scarred from his encounter with Lecter and has "retired" from the FBI. Due to his unusually empathetic intuition -- he can get inside a serial killer's mind and imagine his next move -- Will is still much in demand, which explains why FBI director Jack Crawford (Harvey Keitel) shows up at Will's door with photos of two murdered families. A maniac has been butchering entire households during the full moon; the next lunar cycle gives them a short deadline to catch the killer -- whom the tabloids dub "the Tooth Fairy" -- before he strikes again.

Entrusted with this leg of the franchise -- a prequel whose events unfold before Lecter makes the acquaintance of Clarice Starling -- director Brett Ratner, known mainly for Chris Tucker vehicles, doesn't embarrass himself or the many Lecter fans nervously watching his progress. The film's look is heavily indebted to Silence; Ratner hired that film's production designer, Kristi Zea, to rebuild Lecter's glass cell, and cinematographer Dante Spinotti (who shot Manhunter) apes Tak Fujimoto's drab, gun-metal tones for Silence. Aside from one bit of shock-cut cheesiness, and a Danny Elfman score that sometimes appears to be shrieking along on its own wavelength and leaving the movie behind, the movie has been crafted smoothly and with minimum schlock.

If Ratner fails anywhere, it's in the scenes between the disfigured killer, Francis Dolarhyde (Ralph Fiennes), and his newfound lady love, blind coworker Reba McClane (Emily Watson); this odd, blossoming romance, with its intimations of perversity and dread, deserves David Lynch at his peak, but Ratner simply photographs it. Still, hell, even I could turn a camera on and get great stuff from Fiennes and Watson. Working with Tally's script, which lets them breathe and relate, they make you hope against hope that the movie will break free of Harris' story and fashion a happy ending for Dolarhyde (who, having felt love for the first time, is trying fiercely to put his demons down) and Reba (who, as personified by Watson, could melt the heart of a statue).

Meanwhile, Will is on Dolarhyde's trail, aided by tidbits from the suavely jeering Lecter. If Silence was Lecter in love, and Hannibal was Lecter at play, Red Dragon is Lecter in stasis, quietly furious and tensed for action, any action; this is the Lecter who could chew out a nurse's tongue while maintaining a pulse of 85. Hopkins, this time, gives us a Lecter who keeps himself amused by playing vicious little games (one assumes he might have done likewise to Clarice if she had not so enthralled him). Norton, in the movie's one real failing as compared to Manhunter, doesn't suggest, as William Petersen did, that the closer Will gets to capturing Dolarhyde the more driven and callous he gets, but for the most part he gives us a freakishly intuitive agent exhausted by his own powers of deduction.

I wasn't sure that another adaptation of Red Dragon was necessary (I think Manhunter is just fine); it smacks suspiciously of Universal's desire to put out the inevitable Hopkins-as-Lecter DVD 3-pack. But if Lecter's shadow world must be visited again, let it be this way, and with a superlative cast (I haven't even mentioned Philip Seymour Hoffman as the loathsome reporter who gets on the bad side of Will and Dolarhyde), and not as a tired sequel taking place after the events of Hannibal.

As it is, this movie brings things full circle; it ends with one final wink to the fans, completely unnecessary and a bit too cute, but I enjoyed it anyway. 'Red Dragon' will replace 'Silence of the Lambs' in no one's heart, but at least it earns its place in that DVD 3-pack.

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originally posted: 12/31/06 03:46:27
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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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