Red Dragon (2002)

redI was very skeptical as to whether this would work; first off I really enjoyed the first film and the second film was completely violent and senseless, but inevitably, I was surprised with the end-result. To any one who has thoroughly reviewed this website and inspected its contents, I am a big fan of Edward Norton. He is a great asset to this trilogy and really manages to absorb his role. His character is naive and ultimately shy in the beginning and manages to evolve into a tougher and cooler person by the climax. I assumed he would end up being just a Clarise Starling character clone, but I was glad because he ended up being a much better antagonist towards Lecter. I enjoyed the way he had a special ability to see things on a crime scene but the writer’s never truly put a lot of emphasis on it and it never truly became the basis for his character which made him a lot more interesting.

I really like the way he maneuvers himself around the different characters in the movie. Edward Norton gives a great performance as the reluctant Graham and he really helps drive the movie. His chemistry with the masterful Anthony Hopkins is magnetic and constantly leaves you on the edge of your seat wondering what will happen next. They repeatedly battle against each other with words and wit, often psyching the other out. Lecter knows Graham is his equal yet seeks out to shrink him to size and has an odd fascination, maybe even obsession, with him because Graham was the only one who captured and outsmarted him. Graham knows he’s Lecter’s equal and downplays it to a startling effect. Often times into the movie, Graham is naive because he seeks to try and capture his old mentor he once knew and respected yet always awakens Lecter’s psychotic persona. The master Anthony Hopkins reprises the role that made him a household name for the third time as the sly and brilliant Hannibal Lecter.

The writers really let Lecter flex his intellectual muscles throughout the movie always going one step ahead of every other character in the movie. At one point he manages to solve the mystery before Graham does but he never gives it to him, but trains him and riddles him like his teacher. It’s a contradiction throughout the entire film because when the character of Graham attempts to bring about his old friend and mentor, Lecter sneers and intimidates him, yet Lecter has a fondness for his intelligence and beyond his own free will becomes Graham’s teacher once more. Anthony Hopkins leaps off the screen with his incredible performance as Hannibal Lecter and somehow almost tops the performances from the previous films as he was saving his energy for this last hurrah. He’s a very intimidating persona throughout the entire film, often creating little tests and obstacles for Graham’s characters and waiting to see if he’ll survive.

At one point, we get a glimpse as Lecter’s brilliance as he uses Morse code to dial his cell telephone which has no buttons and manages to retrieve Graham’s home address. Watching Hopkins transform into this ego-maniacal madman who plays by his own rules is phenomonal and he literally left me stunned and pretty spooked. Ralph Fiennes is great as Francis “Dee” Dolarhyde A. K. A “The Tooth Fairy”, an enigmatic and mysterious serial killer/mass murderer and bears a striking persona similar to that of the character of Norman Bates in “Psycho”. The scenes of him at work, killing people and torturing them are often very scary and he often acts as a chameleon around many of the movie’s supporting characters. His origin is questionable to many of the characters in the film, and we get a horrifying glimpse of it, and to some extent, manage to feel sad for him and his ordeal. He has a strange demonic attachment to a painting which seems to grab a hold over his sanity and well-being.

He’s a very intimidating and lumbering character who bears a creepy German accent that helps his imposing presence. Ralph Fiennes is a master at portraying somewhat psychotic characters, such can be seen in “Schindler’s List”, and he flexes his acting muscles to his full extent. He experiences a change through the course of the film as he falls in love with a blind Radiologist named Reba McClane played by the charming and imp-ish Emily Watson who manages to gain the love of Francis who struggles with his demons. She’s a great balance to his psychotic alter-ego and the love subplot between the two is very interesting. I enjoyed the scenes between Watson and Fiennes as they bring a very intriguing question to the story about whether this woman who has no idea of his deeds can bring some human nature to him.

Harvey Keitel gives a good performance as the agency’s head man who often accompanies Graham on his missions and investigations and character actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman gives an amusing and lasting performance as sleazy reporter Freddy Lounds who often tails the character of Graham on his quest looking for his chance for a scoop. Brett Ratner whose previous outings in stinkers like “Rush Hour 2”, and “Family Man” manages to change palette of textures and moods in the film well enough, sticking to the atmosphere of the previous installments. It’s hard for any movie, regardless of the quality, to live up to the original “Silence of the Lambs”. While this is a sophisticated prequel, we’ve all seen it before on the first film, it’s predictable, and it all seems like there’s nothing original to it.

The tension in the movie is slim to none and when The “Tooth Fairy” does indeed commit his acts of murder, it’s hardly terrifying and lacks and tension or substance. I felt that Hannibal Lecter could have been shown a lot often and I thought that he was grossly underused. Though the remaining ten minutes of the film are cool with it’s sly introduction into “The Silence of the Lambs” it ruins the tense tone of the entire movie and camps it to a certain degree. I was surprised as how well he films this, often giving some appealing dark and grim sequences. The thrilling climax of the film is not your usual cookie-cutter finisher bearing an interesting end to an interesting series. “Red Dragon”, “Silence of the Lambs”, and “Hannibal”: Watch them in that order and you’ll enjoy it. This is a surprisingly good and entertaining finisher to a taut and terrifying glimpse and introduction into the mind of a madman thanks to the cast and story. Bon Appetite.