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26 of 29 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

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7 of 8 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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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An unexpectedly solid prequel to "The Silence of the Lambs", 5 April 2003
By A Customer
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.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Red Dragon fails to thrill, 6 May 2003
By 
Black Tent "zareeba" (Stockton-on-Tees, UK) - See all my reviews
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.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Red Dragon - money in the bank, 21 Jan 2008
By 
Eddie (Derbyshire) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Red Dragon [DVD] [2002] (DVD)
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.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Thrills and chills with Hannibal, 20 Jun 2004
By 
J. Glen "Jeanette Glen" (Scotland) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Red Dragon [DVD] [2002] (DVD)
If you like your horror stories a la Friday the Thirteenth, then this is not the film for you. It is a horror story and there is a certain amount of gore but the horror is is built up in the mind of the viewer, not laid out in a visually grotesque manner with plenty of gratuitous violence.
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.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A conspiracy of silence?, 4 April 2005
By 
J. Williams - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid,but not outstanding., 5 Oct 2013
By 
robert stirling (tarn,s.w.france) - See all my reviews
(TOP 1000 REVIEWER)   
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] [1986] [1989].

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.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Can't compete with Manhunter, 30 Jan 2013
By 
Mr Baz - See all my reviews
(#1 REVIEWER)    (No. 1 Hall OF FAME REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Red Dragon [DVD] [2002] (DVD)
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
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I am not a man. I began as one, but now I am becoming more than a man, as you will witness., 5 Feb 2011
By 
Spike Owen "John Rouse Merriott Chard" (Birmingham, England.) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Red Dragon [DVD] [2002] (DVD)
Red Dragon is based on the novel of the same name written by Thomas Harris and is directed by Brett Ratner and written by Ted Tally. It stars Edward Norton, Anthony Hopkins, Ralph Fiennes, Emily Watson, Harvey Keitel, Mary-Louise Parker & Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Dante Spinotti is on cinematography and Danny Elfman scores the music.

Red Dragon is a prequel to the hugely successful Silence of the Lambs. The story had already been filmed as Manhunter in 1986 directed by Michael Mann. The signs weren't particularly good for Red Dragon. The previous year had seen Ridley Scott tackle Silence Of The Lambs follow up, Hannibal, with tepid results. While at the helm here was the director of such fodder as Rush Hour 1&2, and of course Mann's take on the story is viewed as a grainy and skin itching cult classic. Nice to report then that even tho it's hardly in the same class as "Lambs," it's a willing entertainer that genuinely manages to unease.

Firstly one has to get past the Hannibal Lecter factor to fully enjoy (and dampen expectations) the movie on its own terms. Lecter (Hopkins enjoying himself but going thru the motions) is a secondary character. Important? Yes! But still secondary to Norton's troubled but gifted FBI agent Will Graham and Fiennes bonkers serial killer Francis Dolarhyde (AKA:The Tooth Fairy). Red Dragon is first and foremost a ripping good old detective story, with Ratner and Tally wisely using the bits that made Harris' novel such a page turning success. They have added their own bits of course {the pre-credit sequence involving Lecter & Graham sets things up perfectly}, but ultimately it's a loyal enough telling of a gripping and goose flesh inducing story.

The makers have wisely filled the film out with quality performers. Norton underplays Graham nicely, a character unable to stay away from the job that threatens his family, he becomes an easy guy to root for as things start to get troubling. Fiennes too doesn't go over the top, in great physical shape and with piercing blue eyes, he exudes menace without resorting to being a cackling caricature. Hoffman was a shoe in for a weasel reporter since he does it so well, while Keitel, tho not having to stretch himself, offers up a stoic turn as Jack Crawford. But the main performance, and sadly unheralded, comes from Emily Watson as the blind Reba. With Reba acting as both a romantic and redemptive foil to Dolarhyde's split-personality, Watson gets the tough gig, and comes up trumps with an affecting turn featuring the right amounts of spunk, sadness and needy tenderness.

It's a bit too polished to be a nerve shredder, with Ratner unable to give the film an atmospheric feel befitting the darkness at its core. But it does deliver on the promise of not only that opening segment, but also on Harris' fine procedural narrative. 7/10
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chilling, But Entertaining!, 30 Dec 2006
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!

Watch it!!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Red Dragon, 20 May 2003
By 
Maureen Schofield (London United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Red Dragon [VHS] (VHS Tape)
A definite must for Hanibal collectors. The film segues nicely into anticipation of The Silence of the Lambs. Varies from the original film interpretation, Manhunter, in several respects but is enthralling and exciting from the start. A pity that Manhunter beat this to the post, and that the Hanibal trilogy was not portrayed throughout by Hopkins. The Will Graham part is definetely better portrayed in Manhunter. It has however driven me to re-read all three books. Not bad for a prequel!
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