And so returns everyone's favourite cannibal. The kind of psychopath you could have round for dinner and polite conversation, discussing fine art and fine wines….. just as long as you made sure that he's not doing the cooking. Because, Ladies and Gentlemen, Hannibal Lecter is back.
Sort of. Adapted from the first novel Hannibal appeared in ,“Red Dragon” is the prequel to the 5 oscar-winning “Silence of the Lambs”. Following on the $300 million that the sequel “Hannibal” made last year, this movie was always on the cards, for profit if nothing else. It’d be impossible to ignore the niggling fact though, that “Red Dragon” has been filmed before – under the title “Manhunter” in 1986, but the role of Hannibal in that movie is to all intents and purposes a redundant and ineffectual cameo. A lot of people seem to like “Manhunter”, but quite frankly, it looks like a badly dated episode of "Miami Vice" nowadays. It's more of a curio than anything else.
Now "Red Dragon" on the other hand, adds and expands the story of the original novel, and it answers the question of how Hannibal ended up behind bars in the first place, courtesy of FBI Agent Will Graham (Edward Norton). That could be a great movie in itself, but disappointingly that’s just the first few minutes here. “Red Dragon” instead focuses on the efforts of Will Graham’s attempts to track down the deadliest serial killer since Hannibal himself – known only as the Tooth Fairy. But it takes a murderer to know a murderer, and when Will Graham draws a blank, he calls on ex-psychologist Hannibal for assistance. From there’s it’s a game of psychological cat and mouse between Will Graham and Hannibal himself whilst attempting to track down the Toothfairy murderer before he strikes again.
If that sounds oddly familiar, its because to all intents and purposes, “Silence of the Lambs” has the same plot, only will Clarice Starling in the role of Will Graham. So why does “Red Dragon” succeed? Because unlike most movies where the evil just is evil for the sake of it , here the evil has a psychological reason, and superbly characterised and motivated. Why does Dollarhyde (an absolutely superb Ralph Fiennes in a role that if he’s not nominated for, it’ll be criminal) do what he does as the Toothfairy? It seems unspeakably evil from the outside, but with his portrayal of the character, everything follows its own internal logic, and makes sense in its own twisted way.
“Red Dragon” will rake it in – no question. It could so easily have been atrocious – after all, it is directed by Brett Ratner , whose last movie (Rush Hour 2) is the only movie I’ve ever walked out of. This however shows Brett Ratner to be a director with some real promise…Unfortunately his next movie is gonna be “Rush Hour 3”, and that’s probably the worst thing he could do.
But “Red Dragon” -with a unsettling and effective script from Ted Tally (who also wrote “Silence”) - and a cold, clinical attention to detail bordering on the obsessive recreations of the original “Silence of the Lambs” is a piece of superior entertainment, well acted, with intelligent characterisation and tension. But if anything lets the movie down, it’s the anti-climatic double ending that seems a little rushed and ineffectual, but it’s packed with dark, macabre humour, tension, and superb performances from Ralph Fiennes and especially from Emily Watson as his blind work colleague.
“Red Dragon” proves itself to be worthy addition to the Hannibal canon. Its not as good as “Hannibal” itself, but certainly better than “Silence of the Lambs” , which I watched the day after this, just to see what the difference was - and found it hugely over-rated. “Red Dragon” quite simply, is a must-see movie, so ignore the exploitative advertising and see it in it’s own right. Entertaining , dark and cerebral, "Red Dragon" is far superior to just about any other movie I’ve seen this year.
9Graham Reed's Score