It's got everything you want in a movie the "real" Hannibal Lector" (Hopkins) some notable and respected actors such as Ralph Fiennes, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Emily Watson, and Harvey Keitel.
For me it just didn't work out from the word go.
Edward Norton (clearly miscast here) falls a long way short of William Petersen's performance who genuinely does come across as a man who's wrestling with his mind, Norton just seems to be bashing along with the script and can't convey the mental anguish that Petersen did so well.
If we bypass the Hannibal Lecter element (ie Hopkins in the role he defined as his own) Has to be said in my view Brian Cox was an excellent Dr. Lecter in his own right (a bit more menacing and outwardly manipulative) That aside the Lecter part is not a huge one in this film (not compared to silence of the lambs this is a minor role in this story) Next to the "tooth fairy" Again I respect Ralph Fiennes for his attempt at the role but he's really not half as scary or downright freaky as Tom Noonan was.
Even the reporter "Freddie Lounds" Played by Hoffman v Stephen Lang in Manhunter. There is an important scene where the tooth fairly is torturing "Freddie" (the well known teeth one) Hoffman doesn't really seem that scared, his performance pales badly to Land who is genuinely terrified in his voice and actions in the original.
I could go through the entire cast list and sadly say Red Dragon V Manhunter performances just don't stack up very well for Red Dragon. Norton just seems to be there for the pay cheque without ever really getting into Graham's role in a way he should, his acting looks cheesy and pale against Petersen and this is the lead role for the movie. Even Emily Watson who I usually like in her performances fails to really shine here.
I'm not going to blame the cast entirely though, because I think part of the problem is that this film works "much better" as a Michael Mann movie than it does a Brett Ratner one. I personally think Mann is one of the more interesting director's out there, some feel his work is a bit overly dramatic/stylised and overly themed in both audio and visuals. (take your pick of his films such as Mohicans and Heat etc) But at least he "has some style" and guts to put up something that's going to leave you with a lasting impression (I would argue both films noted there are good ones) v Ratner's rather hmm CV which includes mostly comedies such as "Rush hour" (decent but this ain't no comedy film) and an X men film.
Ratner lacks vision, pace and the ability to make this film the edgy thriller and excellent story it is. Mann is a tough act to follow at times (like him or not he is unique in his style) Despite the mostly good cast he's come across as simply going through the motions as a director. He can't get the edge and performances out of the cast he should do and the film suffers for that.
Interestingly the Cinematographer for both is the well known Dante Spinotti, very unique in his style. Even here I have to say his work stands out more on the original than the new version. It's far from bad in the new version but those wonderful angles and static shots in Manhunter are not there in Red Dragon to the same degree. Audio wise again leaving the 80's theme aside I felt the music in Manhunter was a lot more on the pulse and appropriate for the story.
In my view Red Dragon fails to live up to expectations, the cast appears to have turned up for the cheque and don't really have their hearts in the production. They lack the sharp performances of the original cast who across the board outperform their modern equivalents hands down. If you're in any doubts about this, then I would suggest a viewing of Manhunter..put aside the Mann style aspects and you've basically got far better acting and a much more intense telling of this story. The superb ending in Manhunter with the final showdown and Graham pumping bullets into the tooth fairy is a utterly convincing and has you on the edge of your seat. In contrast Red Dragon ends with the bang of a lightly dressed salad that's been left out for days (ie it's limp and unexciting) Watch both movies back to back it's hard to even sit through Red Dragon (sadly)
Red Dragon pales compared to it's 80's cousin. Disappointing considering the potential here
on 8 July 2012
It's hard not to watch Red Dragon without making comparisons to Manhunter, Hollywood's first stab at Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. Brett Ratner's direction is uninspiring and functional rather than thrilling and something that should be genuinely exciting, like the realisation of who Red Dragon is, is treated matter-of-factly. Contrast this with Michael Mann's inspired direction of the earlier version. It's predecessor Manhunter hangs heavily over the proceedings like a black veil, the actors seem unsure of what to do, knowing in all probability that they are participating in an inferior piece of cinema. There is definitely an element of taking the money and running from everyone involved. Edward Norton is miscast as Will Graham but he isn't the only problem because with every familiar set-up it's difficult not to compare and contrast to it's superior ancestor. Edward Norton is inferior to William F Petersen, Harvey Kietel is inferior to Dennis Farina, Ralph Fiennes is inferior to Tom Noonan, Philip Seymour Hoffman is inferior to Stephen Lang, Emily Watson is inferior to Joan Allen and even Anthony Hopkins is inferior to Brian Cox. And what of Anthony Hopkin's Hannibal Lector, the reason the film was made in the first place? Lector was always a hokey villain but Hopkin's Lector has turned into an old ham with all the menace of a new born puppy. The few new scenes like the attack on Will Graham add little to the story and only add running time to a film that's too long anyway. Poor and pointless, it's a film to be avoided.
on 5 April 2003
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.
on 23 March 2015
In brief: such a bad film, I've already listed this for resale on a popular second-hand website.
At length: perhaps it's because I recently read the book this is based on; perhaps its because I've already seen (and loved) Michael Mann's "Manhunter"; perhaps it's because I recently watched the excellent, "The Silence of the Lambs". Perhaps it's a combination of all three. Either way, I found this film to be utter rubbish. Edward Norton's Will Graham had no pathos at all. Anthony Hopkins was over-used, and his Lector seemed a poor caricature of his first portrayal. Ralph Fiennes had no menace at all. This version of the film is very faithful to the text of the book (with some odd lapses that seemed to do nothing but favour stereotypes and clichés over the rounded characters of the book), but still somehow lost all the urgency and tension that give the book its edge. I felt absolutely no sense of horror, or any tension, at any point. I found the score intrusive and quite childish in its implementation. It's as though the score had to work overtime to compensate for an otherwise complete lack of tension or horror.
Don't buy this unless you're a completist.
on 21 January 2008
So was Dino de Laurentis short of cash? Doubtful. Was he trying to recoup money lost on the box office failure of Manhunter, Michael Mann's superior version from 1986? Possibly. Did he feel that Mann's version lacked artistic integrity and wanted to improve on it? Very doubtful but if he did, he was utterley misguided. Or did he simply want to line up all the Leckter based films in order to complete the set with Anthony Hopkins? I doubt that too.
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.
An all star cast feature in this remake of Red Dragon, the prequel of sorts to Silence of The Lambs. This doesn't differ much from the original, other than it ties in a bit more with its more famous serial killer sibling.
There are some great actors in this but they're not given much to do, and it's only Hopkins of delivers a performance worth mentioning, bringing Hannibal the Canibal back to for another vewing on our screens.
The ending has been changed slightly (from what I remember at least), but I couldn't honestly swear to that as it's been nigh on 20 years since I saw the original.
All in all, it was an enjoyable but pretty straight watch, so what to give it? I did like it, so I could give it 4 stars, but really, as a film, it doesn't really offer that much to excite so I'm going to give it 3 stars, as in 'it's OK'.
on 28 February 2015
Second and third viewings of this movie underline my feeling that it's not really an improvement on MANHUNTER, the first version of this story directed by Michael Mann, with Brian Cox in chilling form as everyone's favourite cannibal. The extension of the ending, as in the novel, is gratifying, and I like the dinner party at the beginning, which I don't think was part of the novel. As in HANNIBAL, Anthony Hopkins slightly camps up his performance as Hannibal Lecter, making him almost a pantomime villain. The 'Tooth Fairy; is an even more unsettling killer than 'Buffalo Bill' in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, but Tom Noonan in MANHUNTER was creepier than Ralph Fiennes. LAMBS is still the best of the movies, although HANNIBAL is my personal favourite oif Thomas Harris's books - Gothic on an epic scale!
Ably directed by Brett Ratner (Rush Hour) Red Dragon certainly cranks up the tension and malice with Edward Norton as the FBI agent investigating homicides carried out by the 'Tooth Fairy', a chilling and disturbing Ralph Fiennes, whose distinctive tattoo covers his entire back, which he shows us often - as well as his naked other parts...One of my favourite actresses, Emily Watson superbly plays the blind woman who tentatively - and rather tenderly - seduces the monster - it is us knowing what may come and when, when she is so trusting greatly enhances this movie and whilst some might say that these scenes slow the pace and water down the action, I think it a big plus.
Lechter, of course, Hopkins (who else?) is giving advice and red-herrings by the bucketful as clues, from his high-level secure cell - it's Norton's FBI agent who does the Agent Starling work in subsequent films, here.
With some great names as well, such as Harvey Keitel, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Mary Louise Parker this brilliant movie is only overshadowed by the great The Silence of the Lambs itself.
on 7 September 2015
Red Dragon is a second crack at Thomas Harris's novel of the same name. First filmed in the eighties by Michael Mann (Heat), renamed Manhunter it singularly failed to work at the all powerful box office and both versions lit by Dante Spinotti.
This version sticks more closely to the novel, but lacking both Mann's vision and drive RD lacks any real punch.
Hopkins is a disappointment as lector-i always preferred Brian Cox as Lector, proving that less is more.
Ed Norton (who is a terrific actor), is miscast here, playing will Graham as a preppy type, rather than the burnt out wreck that he is in Harris novel , and Manhunter. Others are miscast as Ralph Fiennes as Dollarhyde, doesn't work-he is far to pretty, the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman, playing a sleazy journalist is also not pushed enough.
The cast is superb --but it feels like they are going through the script (which is largely uninspired), no real effort is put in...
This is one of those missed opportunities, and a needless remake....
on 28 June 2014
This was a completely pointless film which entirely lacks the style and tension of Michael Mann's brilliant 'Manhunter'. The very good cast try their best, but it doesn't look right and it doesn't sound right. 'Manhunter' was an 80's film - and it looks it - but it remains a classic and in a different league to this venture.