Red Dragon

Anthony Hopkins, Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Harvey Keitel. Directed by Brett Ratner.
Running Time: 124 mins
Rated: MA 15+
This is a very well crafted detection thriller, written by Ted Tally who won an Oscar for his adaptation of Silence of the Lambs. He obviously understands Hannibal Lecter intimately and has written another tour-de-force for Anthony Hopkins. Not being a fan of Hannibal (where Hopkins seemed to do a lot of mugging as Hannibal Lecter and seemed, with Gary Oldman, to be inhabiting quite a different film from the serious one with Julianne Moore as Clarice Starling), I was very glad to see how well Red Dragon had been made.

Red Dragon had been adapted for the screen for director Michael Mann in 1986. The film was called Manhunter and had a fine cast with William Petersen as Will Graham, Brian Cox as Lecter, Dennis Farina as Jack Crawford, Tom Noonan as Francis Dolarhyde, Stephen Lang as Freddi Loundes and Joan Allen as Reba). Novelist Thomas Harris, after the success of his previous books and films has added a prologue which explains how FBI agent, Will Graham, had worked with Lecter as a consulting forensic psychologist and was then almost killed as he unmasked Lecter. This sequence opens this film very effectively.

The plot is well constructed: Graham's recovery then resignation from the FBI, his being called in as a consultor, his growing involvement in solving the murders perpetrated by the killer the media dubs The Tooth Fairy. He then visits Dr Lecter who, as he was later to do with Clarice Starling, subtly challenges Graham while he helps solve the case while urging the killer to attack Graham's family.

As a piece of detective work, the film is continually fascinating, Will Graham being an astute intuitive but needing Lecter's insane intuitions to understand the killer. It also has its moments of startling horror as well as some sequences, especially at the end, of terror. The director is Brett Ratner whose experience is in music videos and the Jackie Chan Rush Hour films.

The cast is top-rate. Anthony Hopkins is more subdued as Lecter, returning to his style in Silence of the Lambs. Edward Norton proves that he is one of Hollywood's most talented young actors and is completely convincing as Will Graham. Harvey Keitel is reliable as Crawford, Emily Watson touching as the blind Reba and Philip Seymour Hoffman does his sleazy best as journalist, Freddy Loundes. But it is Ralph Fiennes as the killer who gives a truly frightening subtle performance. Excellent, but definitely not for the fainthearted.

Richard Leonard SJ