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 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 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 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.
on 24 September 2011
I need to refresh my knowledge of Michael Mann's "Manhunter", yet this remake proves to be vast improvement from overworked "Hannibal" (to say at least). Good performances - most notably from Emily Watson, eclipsing Anthony Hopkins in her role as blind, frail lady, dealing with ego-ridden, shy but deadly dangerous Francis Dollarhyde. We got solid plot, muddled by few bit tedious scenes - like TOO graphic metaphor of Blake's painting being devoured or scene with Dollarhyde and captured by him nosy reporter... "Red Dragon" lacks mostly tension and real drama, based on believable characters audience cares for. Yet, somehow, I liked it, maybe just try not to compare it on and on with "Silence of the lambs" and focus on movie's strong points. As for extras, nothing realy special here, some usual interviews and featurettes - Scott's movie got better treatment from publisher, then. Check it yourself, one shouldn't be too dissapointed.
on 6 May 2003
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.
on 23 July 2014
This remake is ok but in my eyes will never be as good as the original. I've been a fan of Michael Mann's Manhunter ever since i saw it in the eighties (ok, so I'm old!) and this remake did not sway me. This film has a really good cast and isn't bad but if I had to recommend one, it would be Manhunter.
on 7 May 2014
Its drab,dull and lifeless, great actors are wasted here, they appear lacking enthusiasm or interest, simply going through the motions.
To be fair it doesn't help that there is little or no drive to the movie, when it should get moving and involve you with the chase it becomes bogged down and drawn out, when it should have more suspense its rushed and ruined.
Brett Ratner did a great job with Rush Hour 1 & 2 which he directed before this but is he really suited to this kind of movie?
Sadly it would seem not.
Although we all know its a remake to cash in on Mr Lecter's character i suggest we buy the book instead, you can get the double book of this AND Silence of the lambs for 1p on here!! Now that's something really worth getting your teeth into.
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.