23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unexpectedly solid prequel to "The Silence of the Lambs"
The key thing about watching "Red Dragon" is to realize that this is not a Hannibal Lecter story. The character was a compelling but relatively minor figure in both the Thomas Harris novel and "Manhunter," the original cinematic adaptation by Michael Mann. Obviously screenwriter Ted Tally and director Brett Ratner have enhanced the role for this 2002 film, but Anthony...
Published on 5 April 2003
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Red Dragon fails to thrill
Remakes of films are inevitably compared with the earlier versions, especially if the films in question are based on a popular book. Red Dragon, based on Thomas Harris’s book of that name, is not strictly speaking a remake of Manhunter, the earlier incarnation of Harris’s story; it should rather be regarded as a different version. Even so, the comparisons have...
Published on 6 May 2003 by Black Tent
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unexpectedly solid prequel to "The Silence of the Lambs",
By A Customer
This review is from: Red Dragon - 2 disc edition  [DVD] (DVD)The key thing about watching "Red Dragon" is to realize that this is not a Hannibal Lecter story. The character was a compelling but relatively minor figure in both the Thomas Harris novel and "Manhunter," the original cinematic adaptation by Michael Mann. Obviously screenwriter Ted Tally and director Brett Ratner have enhanced the role for this 2002 film, but Anthony Hopkins's part is not a central part of the story. Once you understand that you will discover that "Red Dragon" exceeds your expectations. But if you cannot get around this idea then you are probably going to be bitterly disappointed with this film.
Clearly a major strength of this film is the stellar caste, which in addition to Hopkins has Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Harvey Keitel, Emily Watson, Mary-Louise Parker, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Anthony Heald, and Mary Beth Hurt (add to the list Ellen Burstyn as the voice of Grandma Dolarhyde). But what makes this film work is its intelligence, for which Harris and Tally get the credit. Will Graham is an intelligent man, an F.B.I. profiler who constantly shows throughout this story that he has a gift for saying the right thing, whether he is talking to Lecter, a room full of police officers, the head of a company, or the Red Dragon himself. Yes, he has been scarred psychologically as well as physically by his capture of Lecter, but it is not an incapacitating condition as was the case with Clarice Starling. In "Silence of the Lambs" the climax of the film involved a cinematic commonplace that has always enraged me, when a law enforcement officer has a gun drawn and aimed at a suspect who then manages to get away. I thought the climax of "The Red Dragon" involved an exhilarating series of intelligent, brilliant moves by the good guys.
The other aspect of this story that makes it compelling is that the villain is a monster with a soul. The idea of a serial killer falling in love, struggling to thwart the demonic voices and try to stop his descent into hell is brilliant. The circle becomes complete when you notice that all of the main characters in this film are complex; granted, not as complex as the Red Dragon, but enough that the actors reading this script would be drawn to the parts. But the ability of the villain to be surprising is critical because usually in the final analysis it is the villain that makes the film. Again, this underscores the fact that Lecter is not the villain of the piece. But he was in "Hannibal," and look how well that film was received. Here we are back to the pivotal idea that even when this character is bound and gagged in a cell he is still capable of killing you.
Ultimately Hannibal Lecter remains the problematic element in the film; more often that not his scenes are suggestive if not outright reminiscent of scenes from "Silence of the Lambs." One of the obvious questions that springs to mind is whether Hopkins's Lecter would have made as big of an impact if "Red Dragon" had indeed been the first of the reconstituted trilogy. Ultimately the answer has to be "no," but because this is clearly a prequel made fully cognizant of the film that comes after it. To appreciate how difficult this is to pull off look at other recent prequels such as "Gods and Generals" and either of the two Star Wars films. The argument here is not that "The Red Dragon" is a better film than "The Silence of the Lambs," but that it is a worthy successor to that classic film, even if it takes place first.
Final Note: The commentary track with Ratner and Tally is well worth a second viewing of the film, more so in terms of tidbits about the production than analytical insights into the adaptation. The rest of the DVD extras are at least average, but the commentary is the big attraction here.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Red Dragon fails to thrill,
This review is from: Red Dragon - 2 disc edition  [DVD] (DVD)Remakes of films are inevitably compared with the earlier versions, especially if the films in question are based on a popular book. Red Dragon, based on Thomas Harris’s book of that name, is not strictly speaking a remake of Manhunter, the earlier incarnation of Harris’s story; it should rather be regarded as a different version. Even so, the comparisons have been and will continue to be made. How does Red Dragon stand up to these comparisons?
My view is inevitably a personal one, especially as Manhunter made such a vivid impression on me, both before and after I had read the book (which by the way I prefer to Silence of the Lambs and the abysmal Hannibal). However, while watching Red Dragon I tried hard to be as objective as possible, and to avoid setting the film against its earlier incarnation. The result was a rather mixed view of the film.
I tried hard to like Edward Norton as Will Graham, but he lacks the steely-eyed determination and restrained intensity of William Petersen in the same part. Similarly, Ralph Fiennes did a good job with the monstrous Francis Dolarhyde, but I longed desperately for the formidable, truly terrifying presence of Tom Noonan in the same role.
It was with the celebrated character of Hannibal Lecter, though, that I felt things got a bit out of hand. The film’s makers seemed to be milking the character for all it was worth, and included some unnecessary scenes, such as Lecter lunging at Will Graham while attached to a kind of human exercise apparatus, and having a waiter serving him a meal jump with fright when Lecter suddenly appears on the other side of the cell barrier. These were apparently included simply to introduce a bit of gratuitous Lecter-shock-factor, which to be honest isn’t really shocking at all; we’ve seen it all before, in Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal, and overdoing it in this manner robs Lecter’s character of his power. Anthony Hopkins is a very fine actor, and I have always admired his work, but for me he goes over the top with Lecter. In the first two books, Lecter’s character is so compelling simply because he is subtle and restrained; the Lecter of Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs would have scorned the kind of obviousness displayed by Hopkins’s impersonation of him. I know I am far from alone in finding Brian Cox’s portrayal of the Doctor in Manhunter far more sinister and menacing, precisely because of its subtlety and restraint. I can still hear Cox/Lecter’s voice, softly probing yet with a hint of steel behind it, as he asks Will Graham, ‘Do you know how you caught me, Will?’
The characters apart, what about the film’s general impact? In general it was well made, yet to me it lacked overall impact. The opening scenes apart, Red Dragon is actually slightly more faithful to the book (in the literal sense) than Manhunter, but I’m not sure that is necessarily a bonus. Sure, we were treated to some insight into Francis Dolarhyde’s earlier life, and were given a glimpse of his obsession with Blake’s painting The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun. But without the detailed information given in the book that did not really tell us much more than Manhunter did.
Some scenes which should have had us on the edge of our seats were simply flat, the most obvious one being the moment when Freddy Lounds, glued to the wheelchair, comes hurtling down the street in a ball of fire. In Red Dragon it lacked impact, possibly because the director stuck too closely to the book and simply had the wheelchair roll down the sloping street from right to left. The same scene in Manhunter starts with a view of a ramp curving out of sight into what looks like a multi-storey car park. We hear the whump! As petrol ignites, and see a sudden glow reflected against the far wall of the car park entrance. Then the squeak of the wheelchair’s wheels, and finally the dreadful sight of Freddy, all ablaze, hurtling towards the camera. Less faithful to the book, no doubt, but so much more dramatic and cinematically satisfying. Another scene where Manhunter scores hands down is the one in which Francis Dolarhyde takes the blind woman, Reba McClane, to see the tiger sedated prior to having its tooth capped. For me this is a stunning scene: Reba runs her fingers through the tiger’s fur ecstatically, laying her head against its side to hear the heartbeat, her face filled with wonder and awe. By contrast, Red Dragon again falls flat in a scene which should make the hairs stand up on the back of one’s neck. Finally the ending, while again truer to the book, simply seems to prolong an already longish film (or did it only seem that way? I actually found myself fast-forwarding in places, which I rarely do). Yet again, Michael Mann’s surer touch shows in the ending of Manhunter, with the unforgettable sight of Will Graham pounding towards Dolarhyde’s house in slow motion, finally hurling himself through the window into the room where Francis Dolarhyde is about to cut Reba McClane – and all to the pounding rhythms of Iron Butterfly.
Red Dragon lacked the charged atmosphere that was such a striking feature of Manhunter, thanks in no small measure to the latter’s music, a blend of electronic and heavy metal. By contrast I can’t remember a single thing about the music for Red Dragon, which seemed to me banal and lacking in atmosphere.
Overall, I felt that the makers of Red Dragon relied too heavily on the main actors to carry the film; it’s as if they thought everything else would simply fall into place around them. Well, it doesn’t. It’s not a bad film, and it does have some very good moments. But would I want to watch it again? Probably not.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid,but not outstanding.,
This review is from: Red Dragon - 2 disc edition  [DVD] (DVD)I always think that sequels and prequels have been made to feed our appetite for the style or charactors of the original (apart from the obvious reason of making more money).
So here we have more of Hannibal Lecter with Anthony Hopkins cast in the role originally played by Brian Cox in Manhunter [DVD]  .
This is a remake of that film with more detail and much more emphasis on the Lecter charactor.There is also more insight into the reasons why the obligatory serial killer,nicknamed the 'Tooth Fairy', behaves the way he does (child abuse in his case).
A good addition to the Hannibal series with top quality performances all round.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Red Dragon - money in the bank,
More likely he just wanted to make more money from those who would pay to see yet another inferior remake. Yes, that must be it. Many who saw Manhunter fail to recognise it as an exceptionally well crafted piece of film-making and comparisons to it are inevitable. Certainly Red Dragon is an acceptable piece of entertainment when viewed as a stand-alone piece, but in comparison to Manhunter it is considerably inferior. Mann has a strong visual style which uses composition and colour to great effect and the use of music is considered without becoming overwhelming. The director here, Brett Ratner, offers nothing special in the way of style, attempting to emulate the feel of Silence of the Lambs and frequently the music gets in the way of any intended suspense. It is interesting to note, however, that the same cinematographer, Dante Spinotti, worked on both films.
Anthony Hopkins is beginning to look tired in his role as Leckter although the depth that he gave the role in Silence of the Lambs made for a truly frightening character. I always preferred Brain Cox (although his was hardly a starring role), but he had the power to chill, something which Hopkins' Leckter does not. Edward Norton is here badly miscast and while he is a fine actor who is always watchable, here he looks too young and fresh to make the Will Graham character convincing as someone who is able to 'get inside the head' of the killer, something that in the story he has done to the point of being seriously psychologically affected by it. Norton coasts easily through the role, as does Harvey Keitel and while Ralph Fiennes offers up an acceptable killer with a deranged psyche, he pales agains Tom Noonan's Dollarhyde from the earlier film. Noonan was terrifying as the killer yet he evoked sympathy, a synthesis which serves to disturb the viewer far more than any graphic murders which thankfully we were spared. This was especially evident in the bedroom scene following Reba's seduction. The scene with the tiger, incredibly poignant in Manhunter, simply falls flat here, as does the moment of revelation when Graham finally places the last piece with the film canister labels. This sense of flatness pervades the whole film.
Red Dragon does however, include fragments of Dollarhyde's past. This was fairly extensive in the book and non existant in Mann's film (again, Noonan's performance made it unnecessary), but here it simply provides a convenient way for Graham to extricate himself from the situation which precedes the final showdown, itself made predictable at a point much earlier in the film. And of course, in the way of Fatal Attraction we have the now well overused false ending but don't worry, I haven't spoilt anything, you'll be expecting it.
The story itself is generally much the same as in the earlier film but lacks everything which made that film special. If you've not seen Manhunter, Red Dragon is standard serial killer fare: see it then watch the original. If you have seen the earlier version, don't bother.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thrills and chills with Hannibal,
It is a well written, well acted film which is the prequel to Silence of the Lambs, published in 1982, six years before Silence. (It is also a remake, as it was filmed with Brian Cox playing a very good, scary, Lecter, his performance equaling that of Anthony Hopkins). It would be difficult to distinguish whose Hannibal is better, they are both excellent! This is however a very good rendition of the book and Anthony Hopkins reprises the role of Hannibal Lecter with great panache. It is good to have the backstory filled in and to meet the man (Will Graham) who was responsible for catching the infamous Doctor and ensuring his incarceration.
Harvey Keitel is good as Jack Crawford, Edward Norton and Ralph Fiennes as Will Graham and Francis Dolarhyde respectively are excellent and totally convincing in their respective roles. Fiennes is superb and manages to make you feel sorry for his character even whilst you are repulsed by him. Everybody connected with this film has done a superb job of catching the essence of Thomas Harris' writing and make this an enjoyable if, on occasion, a somewhat gory watch.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chilling, But Entertaining!,
This review is from: Red Dragon - 2 disc edition  [DVD] (DVD)I only just watched this film about a week ago and well what can I say I loved it.
This film includes some strong performances from Anthony Hopkins playing the cannibal he is and he plays it brilliantly, Edward Norton who is great as a cop investigating murders and Ralph Fiennes who brings us a remarkable serial killer.
The way Ralph Fiennes plays the serial killer it is truly chilling but he plays it amazingly well.
Overall I reccomend this film to any people who liked the 'Hannibal' and 'The Silence Of The Lambs.'
This is without a doubt the greatest one of the trilogy!
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A conspiracy of silence?,
This review is from: Red Dragon - 2 disc edition  [DVD] (DVD)I had the dubious pleasure of getting hold of the DVD edition of this film within days of purchasing 'Manhunter', in the same format. The quality of this interpretation of Harris' novel aside, I found it extraordinary that (with the exception of a passing allusion in the director's commentary) nowhere on this 2 Disc Edition of 'Red Dragon' is the masterpiece 'Manhunter' mentioned. Why? Anyone who thinks as highly of Michael Mann's brilliant film as I do must find that a little odd, to say the least. Where scenes in 'Red Dragon' mirror similar readings in 'Manhunter' no mention is made of - or comparisons made with - the memorable performances that Brian Cox, William Peterson, Joan Allen and especially the remarkable Tom Noonan brought to 'Manhunter'. True, Brett Ratner's direction, Ed Norton and, above all, Emily Watson ensure that 'Red Dragon' is a cut above the usual pap that passes for 'psychological thrillers', but Ralph Fiennes brings precisely nothing to this understanding of the 'Tooth Fairy'. And even the wonderful Philip Seymour Hoffman adds little.
In short, it's truly a mystery to me that the respective DVDs of 'Manhunter' and 'Red Dragon' don't appear to acknowledge the existence of the other. In the case of 'Manhunter', however, why should it? After all, it's a masterpiece, whereas 'Red Dragon is a second-rate bore.
29 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The silence has broken....Red Dragon is back......,
This review is from: Red Dragon - 2 disc edition  [DVD] (DVD)... Since The Silence of the Lambs was so great with 5 oscars, and its sequel Hannibal was not as good, I approached the latest film in the Hannibal Lecter series, Red Dragon, with some degree of trepidation. The cast had me very excited (Edward Norton, Anthony Hopkins, and Ralph Fiennes in the same movie!), but the after taste of Hannibal left in my mouth nothing was certain. Then when I learned who was directing (Brett Ratner) I became even more skeptical. Thankfully, my fears were assuaged by a film that was stylishly directed and perfectly acted from start to finish.
Hopkins of course reprises his role as Hannibal Lecter, the cannibal villain we all hate to love. As the film opens, he is a free man, and enjoying a life of sophistication, attending orchestral performances and hosting lavish dinner parties (just guess what he serves?). Norton plays FBI agent Will Graham, who is tracking a series of vicious murders, and goes to Dr. Lecter for help throughout the investigation. It is clear to the audience that Lecter is guilty of these crimes, and Graham has yet to figure it out. He soon does, however, and Graham is able to corral Lecter, sending him to the maximum security prison we first saw him in eleven years ago in The Silence of the Lambs. Graham, completely drained from the entire ordeal, quits the bureau and moves to Florida to fix boat motors and raise a family with his beautiful wife (Mary Louise Parker).
This is when the main part of the story line kicks in, and another cause of my worry. A killer is on the loose, who goes by the name of the "Tooth Fairy." Graham's old boss, Jack Crawford (the always great Harvey Keitel) is having trouble with the case, so he persuades Graham to come back and work on this case, on a limited, not-directly-involved manner. Graham reluctantly agrees, and goes to work on the case. Of course, Graham cannot solve it on his own either, so he enlists the help of his old friend Dr. Lecter. This is where much of the film's strength comes from: the bizarre, yet mutually respecting relationship between Lecter and Graham. Sounds good enough, but the problem I saw before actually seeing the movie is that this is the exact same plot as The Silence of the Lambs. Astonishingly, Dragon never feels ripped off, but thoroughly original. And even if it was ripped off, both novels were written by Thomas Harris, so he has the right to rip himself off if he wants. But Dragon is able to exist on its own merits, not merely as a Lambs rip off.
Its merits certainly extend far into the movie. The acting comes from some of the best actors in the world. Hopkins and Norton absolutely electrify the screen with a sizzling chemistry on par with the Hopkins/Jodie Foster relationship from Lambs. Ralph Fiennes (The English Patient) is equal parts creepy and sympathetic as the villainous Francis Dolarhyde, the man who believes he is the Red Dragon. He has several wonderful scenes with a blind girl, Reba McClane (played beautifully by the talented Emily Watson) that allow the audience to feel a certain amount of sympathy for a man who brutally murders families. Keitel is the right man to play the Graham's gruff boss, in a part that is minor but still required a good actor to fill. The very versatile Philip Seymour Hoffman is perfect as the sleazy reporter Freddy Lounds, whom Graham and Crawford use as a pawn in their game against The Tooth Fairy, to shocking results.
Technically, the film is as sound as any that has come out this year. The screenplay by Ted Tally (who also penned Lambs) is taut. Cinematographer (and two-time Oscar nominee for L.A. Confidential and The Insider Dante Spinotti creates a rich and foreboding atmosphere. The score by Danny Elfman (himself twice nominated for Good Will Hunting and Men in Black) is the perfect accompaniment for the terror on screen. And most importantly, Ratner directs the film with style, a big step up from Ridley Scott's heavy-handed Hannibal.
But the film of course exists and succeeds because of Anthony Hopkins. Any actor who can take one of the most monstrous characters ever created, but he is beloved by all. Why? Because Hopkins plays the role with such wit and poise that he is impossible not to like.
As i look back on this movie i say to my self, yes this will be one day a classic with the past films.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worth seeing but nothing to rave about,
Still worth seeing for some good bits, though.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not bad,
This review is from: Red Dragon - 2 disc edition  [DVD] (DVD)This is a little better than I expected. It may be closer to the book (which I have not read) but its not as good as Manhunter, and its a big drop in quality from the under-rated Hannibal and it certainly doesn't stand up to any comparison with Silence of the Lambs. However, the cast are good and there are some chilling moments, but good as the cast are, Ralph Fiennes is just not scary compared with Tom Noonans performance in Manhunter.
My advice if you want to buy one version of the Red Dragon story is to buy Manhunter. If you really must see this version, rent both this and Manhunter and only then if you prefer Red Dragon buy it.
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Red Dragon - 2 disc edition  [DVD] by Brett Ratner (DVD - 2003)