Red Dragon (2002)
(Release Date: September 30, 2002)

Not so damned bad.Not so damned bad.Not so damned bad.1/2

A bloody Cash In, but not a bad one!

The World's Reddest Sociopath!!!
J.C. Maçek III
The World's Greatest Critic!

It wasn't the first time that Thomas Harris' Red Dragon had been adapted for the big screen. No, Dino De Laurentiis had Mikey Mann do it for 1986's Manhunter. While Manhunter has as many fan supporters as it does critical lambasters, there is no denying that in its initial run Manhunter flopped at the box office, causing producer De Laurentiis and actor Brian Cox to pass on the next film in the series. Unfortunately for both men, the next film in the series was The Silence of the Lambs which took home more Oscars than the residents of Grouch-Land and remains a hallmark in film to this day. Suddenly old Dino was interested in the plight of old Hannibal "Lektor", and he quickly made sure that the next film, 2001's Hannibal, would be made under his own tutelage just as soon as the ink was dry on Harris' novel!
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But where to go from here? Ah, of course! Remake your own film and make sure that this new Red Dragon has a dabble more to do with the source material and a whole lot more to do with one Hannibal Lecter, the thinking man's Freddy Krueger! After all, it was Anthony Hopkins who made Lecter a household name and his own mannerisms that fans ape in honor of our cannibal Hannibal! So let's slap him in the familiar role and run with it like a blood-soaked baton.

So how is Red Dragon? It's a good, if flawed, interpretation of Harris' novel from director Brett Ratner that improves upon Manhunter in almost every way. However many of the same strange changes are made here, and the beefing-up of Hopkins' part as Lecter is an obvious cash-in on the success of The Silence of the Lambs. Hey, the Marketing Department couldn't bill this as another Hannibal Lecter movie otherwise, now could they?

Ostensibly set in the late 1970's, this is the story of FBI Profiler Will Graham (the always good Edward Norton). Will retired after capturing the notorious cannibal psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter (seen in an expanded opening scene). Because this effort nearly cost Will his life, his wife Molly (Mary-Louise Parker) is none-too-pleased to let her man rejoin Harvey Keitel's Jack Crawford on his manhunt for a new, more "family oriented" serial killer!

Will's near-psychic profiling skills helped make him the best, but it was the help of a pre-incarceration Lecter that solved his biggest cases, and this case of an elusive killer called "The Tooth Fairy" qualifies. While Lecter is needling poor Will and Philip Seymour Hoffman's Freddy Lounds is trying to make a buck off him, in the mean time, our killer (who prefers to think of himself as the "Red Dragon" of William Blake's painting) is desperately trying to shed his humanity while, quite accidentally, falling in love. The Red Dragon is Francis Dolarhyde (Ralph Fiennes) whose strange romance with Emily Watson's blind Reba McClane is in direct conflict with his thrall of the Red Dragon of the painting. Who will win out? Vegas odds, baby, Vegas odds.

While the novel Red Dragon reads, in hindsight, like a prototypical The Silence of the Lambs the movie Red Dragon has Silence written all over it in style and in mood. After more than ten years of success and imitators, a sequel (or in this case, prequel) to The Silence of the Lambs is certain to want to borrow a little or a lot from its big brother. And while the acting is overall pretty good, Hopkins has had ten years to have fun with the role, and he comes off here like a much more over-the-top and cartoonish version of his most famous character.

Red Dragon is more paced and believable (and less focused on dated eye-candy) than Manhunter. On the other hand, the over-reliance on making this a Hopkins vehicle (Lecter is a relatively minor character in the novel) makes for a rather unbalanced and embellished total. Certainly this is a more accurate adaptation than De Laurentiis' first pass, and Ted Tally's script bears more of a resemblance to the novel than Mann's did, but a few of the scenes feel tacked on for completion's sake.

Overall, I'm giving Red Dragon Three and one half stars out of five! While fans of Manhunter might say that this is a gory remake that didn't need to be made, fans of the novel might applaud its accuracy. You could do a lot worse, and chances are... you have. So until Hopkins takes up the role of Lasar Opie in a remake of The Year of the Sex Olympics, just for the halibut, I'll see you in the next reel!

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Red Dragon (2002) reviewed by J.C. Maçek III who is solely responsible for this site
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Molly Graham has a fantastic body... in this movie!
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