2 October 2002 | tinmra
This first serving of Hannibal may prove to be the best
The movie going public is obviously well acquainted with the most famous serial killer, cannibal, in cinematic history, Hannibal Lecter. In 2002's 'RED DRAGON,' Hannibal is back with force and vengeance, thanks to the brilliant portrayal of Sir Anthony Hopkins and inspired writing of screenwriter Ted Tally. He's got some of the best lines in the business. 'RED DRAGON,' for the most part is a remake of Michael Mann's 1986 'Manhunter.' Obviously there isn't a lot of variation between the two since they are both adaptations of Thomas Harris' book 'RED DRAGON.' But that is were the simularity ends. Sure, some scenes are structed the same, but to be fair this latest installment is closer and more true to the novel. For those that read the book or saw 'Manhunter,' it's no surprise that Hannibal had a rather small role. Ted Tally took some license and beefed up the character for some crucial scenes, adding a very interesting and inventive twist. From the onset, we see the capture of Hannibal by FBI Agent Will Graham, played flawlessly this time around by Edward Norton. We are also privy to a rather more intense Lecter, anger and resentment for being caught and put away. Hopkins doesn't need to do much to convey his distaste for Graham, the true talent of an excellent actor. Lecter is not over the top as many say he was in the third film 'HANNIBAL.' But this is really not a Lecter story. It is focused more on Graham and the new killer on the block, Francis Dolarhyde (played to an eeriely perfection by Ralph Fiennes). One not of advisement, if 'The Silence Of The Lambs', or 'Hannibal,' gave you nightmares, you may not be prepared for 'Dragon.' It is absolutely brutal in it's visuals and psychological mind games. Dolarhyde, aka the 'Tooth Fairy' is a brutal serial killer who has killed two families and may be on the hunt for a third. It is this that brings Jack Crawford (Harvey Keitel) on the quest to seek out a retired Graham. Reluctantly, Graham decides to help with the investigation. Graham does possess a certain gift, he can think like the killer. But it does cause a dilemma. The one person that could really give our detective the insight he needs is the one man who tried to kill him, Lector. As Clarice in 'Silence' Graham must once again delve into Lecter's world of the asylum. Frederick Chilton is back as the head of the asylum, again played by Anthony Heald (the 'old friend for dinner' guy). Heald is an absolute delight in a awkward sort of way. He's definetly a one off. Basically, he's not nearly as smart as he thinks he is. Possibly the most disturbing character of the film is played by Fiennes. He is essentially a sympathetic killer, and yet you really want to see this guy go down. Fiennes is stunning in this role and adds his own spark to the role. Emily Watson plays Fiennes uninformed love interest who happens to be blind, lucky for her. Philip Seymour Hoffman is the sleazy tabloid reporter who in time is destined to get his comupance. It is really unfortunate that the Academy Awards does not hand out status to ensemble casts. If they did, 'RED DRAGON,' would probably be the only nomination in the catagory. There hasn't been a cast like this in many years. There is an equal balance between the three main characters, Lecter, Graham, and Dolarhyde. Lecter was in it just enough to keep it constantly fresh and on edge. Dolarhyde takes it over the edge and Graham brings it subtly back. Brett Ratner as the director did an excellent job in setting the scenes, the creepy atmosphere, and letting the actors do what they do best. This film is a winner all the way around. If any thriller were put up against 'Silence,' this may be the one that could surpass it in regards to thrills, chills and just plain excellent storytelling. Though the 4 movies are destined to be lumped together, 'Manhunter,' 'The Silence Of The Lambs,' 'Hannibal,' and now 'The Red Dragon,' which is completely understandable, 'Dragon' stands on it's own. And does so extremely well. This movie is obviously not for everyone. There is graphic violence that is disturbing. Yet in this vehicle it is not overplayed as say, your average slasher movie. If you're going to plunk down your hard earned cash for a movie, 'Red Dragon,' is the one. It is a good solid interesting movie that never lets go. Once it's got you, it's got you. And that ride starts as the lights in the theater go down. There's not too many movies that can boast that.