Red Dragon (2002)
Director: Brett Ratner
The FBI Agent (Norton) that pinched Hannibal Lecter (Hopkins) years ago now seeks his help in nabbing a roaming serial killer. The new kid on the block is named The Tooth Fairy (Fiennes) and the sick bastard preys upon unsuspecting families without mercy. Where’s the freaking Chianti? I need it!
Already? Didn’t "Hannibal" come out like...yesterday?? Somebody’s in a hurry! Anyway; "Red Dragon" wound up being the sequel I was afraid Hannibal would be. Yes, I liked this movie better the first time I saw it...when it was called Manhunter! I also liked it better the second time I checked it out when it was called "Silence of the Lambs"! Red Dragon just brought absolutely nothing fresh to the gory Lecter kitchen table or the serial killer sub genre as we know it.
On the narrative front, it reeks of “retread” all over. Blonde FBI Agent (did Norton dye his hair to look like Jodie Foster? Damn "method" actors!) visits Cannibal Lecter (Hopkins) in the nut house for insight on a fruit who he’s trying to capture. Lecter is, of course, aloof and full of riddles while the killer ont he loose goes “Captain Crunch” on society because he’s going through heavy “changes”; becoming something else. Does all of this sound familiar? It should, because we saw it all delivered with more gusto and panache in "Silence of the Lambs".
Note on the killer: Now I don’t know if it’s my hormones, my lack of sleep or the over abundance of “M&M’s” I intake, but I’m so fucking sick and tired of these cinematic serial killers being portrayed under the same kind of light. You know the type; they’re quiet, awkward and got abused as children so that justifies their actions. Well boo hoo hoo, cry me a fucking river! I can’t take these pathetic excuses for human beings anymore, in life or on celluloid! Shape up already, stand straight, get professional help and be a fucking man!!! That whole “look at me, I’m changing into a dragon cause my grandma touched my wee-wee” type of shite is freaking tired! Enough of these piss-ants! I feel better…
We now return to our regularly scheduled review: For most of its running time, Red Dragon did keep me somewhat interested with its familiar happenings but mostly on one level: middle ground. The film goes flat at times, is tame compared to its grisly brothers and I was rarely taken in emotionally to the level that I was supposed be. Unfortunately, I therefore never cared enough about the characters to the point of feeling true tension for them. The investigation angle is also handled in a pedestrian manner; shite never really got suspenseful, surprising or suddenly more gripping. It actually did once, but the flick didn’t capitalize on its kool turn and solved the crisis in a heartbeat. Bummer. Now, did all that have to do with Ratner’s detached directing style or the now formulaic storyline? In my opinion...both. It’s unfortunate that the only instance that I sat up in my seat, suddenly pulled in by what was going down was during the last frames of the picture. The flick needed more thrilling moments like that throughout to make it worthy of its predecessors.
Thankfully, Phillip Seymour Hoffamn (Freddy) did bring in his token goofiness to pump this party up. His fate brought me one hell of a belly laugh! Anthony Heald (Chilton) also had me chuckling, with his crazy hair cut and oddball demeanor. I never thought I’d be happy to see that chump again! I also dug the massive tattoo Tooth Boy sported and Hannibal’s clever charm did still feel good to the hear. But the best thing in this muffin was the blind chick subplot (Watson). It upped the stake of the game and the top-notch acting (by Fiennes and Watson) made it a more poignant watch than the rest of the movie.
Overall though, "Red Dragon" didn’t do much for me. Sure, it’s watchable but it felt too much like an “assembly line” piece of cardboard. It’s solely there to reintegrate a well known formula with less potent juice in its caboose. I’ll stick to Manhunter for my appointment with the “Tooth Fairy” thank you very much!
We get some fun stuff but nothing overwhelming. Some stabbings, blood splashes, some gunshots to the head/body, a quick peek at a blown up head and more quick peeks at folks with glass inserted into their eye sockets.
Edward Norton (Will) does fine, he always does fine, and this wasn’t a hard part for the lad. Anthony Hopkins (Hannibal) slaps his well-known Lecter shtick our way and thankfully doesn’t overdo it. He’s still fun. Ralph Fiennes (D) impressed me as the nut and I was surprised to see him play such an “ugly” role in every sense of the word. I love Harvey Keitel (Jack) but he’s just paying for his groceries here. Emily Watson (Reba) delivers another standout performance. This gal rocks!
T & A
We see a quick frame of a girl’s breasts; that’s it! Norton goes shirtless and Fiennes goes buck naked. Don’t blink ladies and you’ll get a glimpse of Fiennes Jr.
Ratner’s directing is fairly routine: wide shot-medium shot, not much more to it than that. The occasional groovy shots and the bluish lighting were welcomed. But on a whole, Ratner’s eye was just too “average” for this type of movie. We needed the energy of a Demme and the more polished visuals of a Mann or a Scott in this coop!
The moody score by Danny Elfman helped give the film the atmosphere that its images didn’t fully inspire. Nice work.
Even though I was somewhat into this babe throughout, "Red Dragon" mostly felt like a 2-hour excuse for Dino De Laurentis to make the money he didn’t make at the time with Manhunter (the flick flopped). This prequel just didn’t have enough heart, intensity, originality or suspense to leave any kind of lasting impression on me. It felt watered down and I’m appreciating Hannibal on a whole new level now! At least that sequel was the polar opposite of its father and totally “out there”! They should have called Red Dragon: “Silence of the Lambs for Dummies”.
Fiennes' tattoo took 8 hours to apply.
Dennis Farina played the Keitel role in Manhunter.
Jude Law was considered for the role of “Young Lecter”.