Hannibal Lector is a victim of his own success. This is now the fourth film featuring the cannibalistic doctor, as Red Dragon is a remake of the excellent Manhunter (1986). Whether there was any point in re-making an already excellent film is debatable, but with a much bigger budget and a glossy Hollywood veneer, Red Dragon also gives Anthony Hopkins to run through his serial-killer shtick.
FBI agent WIll Graham (Edward Norton), a skilled stalker of serial killers, has been consulting with renowned psychiatrist Hannibal Lector (Anthony Hopkins). The good doctor, having just finished a gourmet meal for some society types, is visited by Graham who is on the verge of solving a particular case. During this impromptu consultation, Graham suddenly realises that he is in fact in the presence of the killer. After a struggle, both are grievously wounded and Lector winds up in a maximum security psychiatric hospital.
Graham, after a long recovery - both physically and mentally - retires from the FBI to enjoy life with his wife and young son. His trauma caused by getting into the minds of serial killers for years has left him disillusioned.
Moving forward many years, Graham is approached by his old boss Jack Crawford (Harvey Keitel) asking a favour; can Graham help in profiling a serial killer called the Tooth Fairy? Crawford doesn't want Graham to get involved in the investigation, just to assist in the profiling. The Tooth Fairy has murdered and mutilated two families and if he sticks to his pattern, Graham has approximately three weeks before he strikes again.
After and initial look Graham realises that in order to profile the case, he's going to need help. Unfortunately the one person who can help profile a mad man is.....a mad man; Dr Hannibal Lector.
So with Lector 'helping' him (obviously, with his own motives) and Graham doing what he hates the most, getting into the mind of serial killers, the race is on. With the Tooth Fairy's killing time getting closer and closer, Graham has to start doing something that is against his better judgement, continue beyond the profiling and look at catching the killer himself.
Red Dragon is quite a taut thriller, but its the performances that really stand out. Surprisingly it's not Anthony Hopkins that's the top of the tree, as he tends to ham it up a little too much, becoming more caricaturised with each outing of Lector. He continues to act in his droll, dryly humoured, elegant mannerisms which is great for the part. Edward Norton is okay as Will Graham, bringing some real depth to the role and carries the character well - unfortunately, he appears a little too young and boyish to be an experienced profiler and family man.
However the best performance is from Ralph Fiennes as the Tooth Fairy. Fiennes is mesmerising as the Tooth Fairy, really showing many sides of the character, not just the evil aspects. His mangled narcissistic psyche is performed through a series of whispered lines and its very chilling. He manages to look and sound like a wounded puppy half the time, but always with the feeling that there is a rage waiting to burst free at any moment. A very sympathetic monster if there ever was one.
Other characters that are key to the film are Freddy Lounds (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a seedy reporter who sticks his nose in the investigation and Reba McClane (Emily Watson), a blind woman who unwittingly brings out other feelings in the Tooth Fairy.
Red Dragon is slightly gorier than the rather lacklustre Hannibal, but the violence and gore is done in such a way that the impact isn't of violence but more of a lingering horror of the mind behind it. There are scenes of stabbings, shootings, explosions, tortures, mutilations, dissections and a flaming corpse super glued to a wheel chair. The film parallels the book fairly accurately, with only a few changes and relies heavily on atmosphere.
Whether or not the character of Dr Lector could survive another film is debateable, but if Anthony Hopkins decides not to play the character again, Red Dragon is a good film to end on.
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