Red Dragon
2 out of 5 stars
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This seems like it's got to be a cheap cash-in after Hannibal, returning Hopkins to the Hannibal Lecter role in a film based on the first novel about the character (previously filmed as Manhunter in 1986). And despite the presence of Oscar-winning Silence of the Lambs screenwriter Tally, it certainly feels like a cheap cash-in!

The film opens with a nifty scene that sets up both Dr Lecter's credentials as a serial killer profiler and his relationship with FBI agent Graham (Norton), then we jump forward a few years as Graham's boss (Keitel) lures him out of early retirement to help solve a brutal series of killings. As in the old days, Graham turns to Lecter for advice, and things get very strange indeed! Meanwhile, the killer (Fiennes) is romancing a blind woman (Watson) at work while trying to silence inner demons that are leading him toward another horrific slaughter.

Fine. The basic story is compelling and interesting, and Ratner handles the drama and action efficiently, with a nice undercurrent of macabre humour and an eerie and atmospheric design. Performances are quite good, with Norton and Keitel playing the only straight-arrow characters and everyone else chewing the scenery. Fiennes is startling and haunting as the disturbed, tattooed villain, nicely contrasted against Watson's wide-eyed but hardly innocent coworker. Hoffman starts out as a ludicrously stereotyped lowlife journalist, then gets the film's only moment of true emotional intensity. But after the opening scene, Hopkins plays Lecter like a caricature of himself--it's just ridiculous, and sparks far more laughter than chills. And there's one other major flaw: The plot slowly but surely falls into the exact same storyline as nine of 10 thrillers at the moment. Complete with the identical ending, which you can see coming a mile away. It's not clever, scary or even remotely intelligent. You can see some brainy stuff going on far beneath the surface, but Ratner never bothers tapping into it at all, then cops out altogether for a mind-numbingly over-familiar finale that actually shocks you with its predictability. Yes, it's slick enough to make a fortune, but it doesn't deserve to be remembered beyond next week.

cert 15 themes, violence, language 26.Sep.02

dir Brett Ratner
scr Ted Tally
with Anthony Hopkins, Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, Ralph Fiennes, Emily Watson, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Anthony Heald, Frankie Faison, Mary-Louise Parker, Ken Leung, Frank Whaley, Bill Duke
release US 4.Oct.02; UK 11.Oct.02
02/US 2h03

Face-off. Graham and Lecter (Norton and Hopkins) have a little chat about the 'Tooth Fairy' serial killer...

hopkins norton fiennes watson

See also: HANNIBAL (2001)

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... back to the beginning "I saw a bootleg days before it came out and I was disappointed and even bored in some parts. There was very little of the psychological mindplay that was present in the other two movies. The killer was interesting and should have been explored more. Norton ... let's see: thin, two dimensional, need I say more? It is hard to believe this is the same actor in American History X. The mental similarities in him and Hannibal were mentioned and never explored. It was like Hopkins was talking to a wall. I mean yes, it was better than 65% of the tripe out and that has come out in the past. Still, compared to the other two movies and the books this movie was a dud." --Diamond, New York City 2.Oct.02
2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall