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Red Dragon

A movie directed by Brett Ratner

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Not better than the original, not much of anything really

  • Feb 25, 2008
Pros: The film quality is better than the original

Cons: Characters and actors playing them were dull, dull, dull

The Bottom Line: HO HUM. Maybe someone will remake Silence of the Lambs so they can keep making each of the Hannibal movies worse and worse.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot.

What do you do with remakes? If they are scores of years apart, you can reexamine the theme or inject it into what is current day for the remake (Cape Fear comes immediately to mind). But if the remake is not even 2 decades removed . . . ?

Red Dragon (2002) is less than 20 years removed from Manhunter (1986). Both are taken from, based on, or what have you, Thomas Harris’s book Red Dragon. There are only two main differences between the films beyond the short stretch of time. First, Red Dragon had the bigger budget and bigger stars; second, one of the stars was Anthony Hopkins. Since Mr. Hopkins won the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, it was only fitting that he play the same role in the prequel (horrid word), so Manhunter was pushed aside because Brian Cox (as talented as he is) simply was not a decent enough Hannibal.

The story is pretty simple. FBI agent Will Graham (Edward Norton) discovers by accident that Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) happens to be the serial killer he, Hannibal, was hired to profile. The accidental discovery leads to a real attempted murder. After this, as you would expect, Graham retires. He is pulled back from retirement to solve a series of murders where whole families are killed.

It doesn’t take Graham long to determine that Dr. Lecter would be needed to help profile the killer. Then the movie splits off. Instead of being a whodoneit, it becomes a movie about motive. The Red Dragon is a character from Blake that Francis Dolarhyde (Ralph Fiennes) takes on as his murderous persona. This isn’t a plot spoiler because this is neither a mystery nor is anything I’ve given a red herring (ugh, pun not intended). What happens to lead up to the climax could be spoiled, so I will leave it at this.

People loved Mr. Hopkins as Hannibal—I admit to being one of them (only for Lambs though). So, since Hannibal was so wretched something had to be done to redress that. So we get Red Dragon. Best to have the “real” Hannibal back in his role.

The problem is that top notch actors like Hopkins, Norton, Fiennes, Harvey Keitel, and Philip Seymour Hoffman aren’t needed for a story this poorly done—each could have, and pretty much did, phone in their performances.

I consider Thomas Harris a hack of the first nature. Hannibal the character is interesting, but the stories he is in . . . not so much. Four directors have taken on this character: Michael Mann, Jonathan Demme (Oscar winner for Lambs, Ridley Scott, and Brett Ratner (Red Dragon). The first three directors are well known, the last was responsible for the two Rush Hour movies. I think this speaks volumes, despite the fact that he had the easiest book to work from—the story had already been interpreted, so less work was required.

Red Dragon isn’t even committed to being bad. Mr. Hopkins seemed truly bored. Mr. Norton has never played a flatter character. Mr. Fiennes was very pretty but alternately dull or overdone. I love Emily Watson who played the blind Reba, but she was about as convincing in her blindness as Al Pacino was with his in Scent of a Woman which is to say not at all. But all were disappointing, not truly bad.

This is a guess, but I think that Mr. Ratner gave each actor a copy of Michael Mann’s original movie and said: “Watch this then do it better; I’ll film you doing it better than the ones in Manhunter. They don’t really add anything to this story and what he filmed was just with better quality film or digital imaging equipment. If you MUST have Hopkins as Hannibal, then watch this over Manhunter if it doesn’t matter, watch the original.


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More Red Dragon (2002 movie) reviews
review by . October 24, 2007
I've seen "Red Dragon" years ago but couldn't recollect it from my thoughts. Last night it reappear to me that it's a great film. This of course is a remake of "Manhunter (Full Screen Edition)," the first in the series of films centering on FBI profilers, serial killers, and the infamous Hannibal Lecter, who I suppose is the modern day equivalent of "Jack the Ripper." I haven't read the novel by Thomas Harris so I can't say which is the more authentic, but they're both very good films.    As …
review by . April 04, 2005
posted in Movie Hype
I really wanted to like this movie. In my opinion Brett Ratner and Ted Tally did a second rate job of bringing the story from print to screen. Everything in this movie is muffin top, with no actual muffin. The duo did a wonderful job of including practically every scene from book to film, but along the way lost everything that made these scenes make sense. Nothing is explained, no motivations are explored, and characters are so thin that they are barely recognizable beyond the basic Killer, FBI …
review by . October 12, 2004
posted in Movie Hype
I have to be completely honest. As interesting a character Hannibal Lector is, I really haven't enjoyed the Hannibal Lector movies that much. This goes against the popular vein, but other than the acting and some interesting cinematographic effects, I wasn't impressed by SILENCE OF THE LAMBS; MANHUNTER (the original film based off of the novel Red Dragon) was a colorful piece of cinematic art quite creative in its use of lighting, sound, and color; and though I enjoyed HANNIBAL the most of Lector …
review by . August 07, 2003
posted in Movie Hype
Previously produced in 1986 as MANHUNTER (by "Miami Vice" producer Michael Mann), RED DRAGON is the adaption of Thomas Harris' best-selling novel and the latest installment in the Hannibal Lecter series.Chronologically the first in the Hannibal series, Edward Norton plays retired FBI agent Will Graham, who is taken out of retirement by FBI Special Agent Jack Crawford (Keitel, taking over from Scott Glenn), because Graham has the psychic ability to see inside the mind of serial killers. Now he's …
review by . April 09, 2003
posted in Movie Hype
For the past several years we have been treated to the bizarre tales of Hannibal Lector. THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (Part 2 of the Trilogy by Thomas Harris) surprised the public with a formidable tale well acted by Anthony Hopkins and Jody Foster. That film was excellent. The second installment HANNIBAL (Part 3 of the Trilogy) was a sequel to SILENCE and while it veered a bit to the excesses of Hollywood it was still a good film with Julianne Moore stepping in very well for the Jody Foster role of …
review by . October 01, 2002
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Great cast, good story, well acted and written.     Cons: Gets a bit slow in some parts.      The Bottom Line: A well-acted and written thriller that will delight fans of Lecter old and new.     It has often been said that things in life have a way of coming full circle; I cite the change of seasons, the cycle of life, and relationships as an example. There is a starting point, and end, and a new beginning. Such is the case of the …
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Paul Savage ()
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I name and describe everything and classify most things. If 'it' already had a name, the one I just gave it is better.
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About this movie


In this prequel to "The Silence of the Lambs," the story of former FBI agent Will Graham, who was nearly killed by Hannibal Lecter, is told, and it includes the initial capture of "The Cannibal."

A lot could've gone wrong inRed Dragon, but the movie exceeds expectations. Replacing the acclaimedManhunteras an "official" entry in the Hannibal Lecter trilogy, this topnotch thriller--the second adaptation of Thomas Harris's first Lecter novel--returns to the fertile soil ofThe Silence of the Lambs, serving as both prequel and heir to the legacy of Lecter as portrayed, with mischievous menace, by the great Anthony Hopkins. Familiar faces and locations reappear (along withLambsscreenwriter Ted Tally) as Lecter coaches FBI profiler Will Graham (Edward Norton) in tracking the horrific "Tooth Fairy" killer (Ralph Fiennes), whose transformative killing spree is inspired by a William Blake painting. By dutifully serving Harris's potent material, Tally and director Brett Ratner craft a suspenseful film worthy of its predecessors, bringing Hopkins full circle as one of the cinema's all-time greatest villains. With overtones ofPsychoand a superb supporting cast,Red Dragonsucceeds against considerable odds.--Jeff Shannon
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Director: Brett Ratner
Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: October 4, 2002
MPAA Rating: R
Screen Writer: Thomas Harris, Ted Tally
DVD Release Date: April 1, 2003
Runtime: 2hrs 4min
Studio: Universal Studios
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