Rakesh's movie talk
Red Dragon (2002)

Home | Movie Reviews | Movie talk | Film Personalities | Misc Articles | Contact Me | Tamil Time

Directed by Brett Ratner
Written by Ted Tally based on a novel by Thomas Harris
Starring Anthony Hopkins, Ralph Fiennes, Edward Northon, Emily Watson and Harvey Keitel


Not many people know this but Red Dragon is actually a remake. Not many people also know that the original actor is someone not many people know. Not many . . . okay, and I'll stop.

Thomas Harris novel, Red Dragon was already remade back in 1986, as Manhunter by Michael Mann. I can't talk much about it easily because I had never seen it. Reactions have been mixed, but I suspect most reviews are new and they could be Mann supporters like me. Therefore, even if I had seen it, I should not judge it with the second Hannibal Lecter movie, Silence of the Lamb, the sequel Hannibal, and the latest Red Dragon.

In my Minority Report review, I have stated the curse of knowledge, and in my case, the overexposure or overdose of murder/mystery/crime movies. In that sense, a majority part of Red Dragon was so familiar. It is a sort of a retread of Se7en, with Hannibal Lecter thrown in for good measure.

Red Dragon is a prequel to Silence of The Lambs and we get to see Lecter in a classical concert, cringing to some off-key performance of a particular musician. Needless to say, the musician ends up in a dinner hosted by Lecter. When one of the guest remarks that a particular cutlet is good and asks what it is, Lecter simply tells, "If I tell you, you won't try it." You can safely guess where the musician is at the moment. Then, you have Graham, an FBI hotshot capturing and getting stabbed by Lecter. Both bleed badly and, thanks to movie magic, survive. Flash forward several years and all the clichés of a crime movie follows. The hero is out of FBI, has wives and kid who will definitely be in danger at the end. Then, there is Grahams boss (Harvey Keitel) who comes back to Graham to try and help him again. The killer, Dolarhyde (Ralph Fiennes) is the murderer with an ugly childhood, just like countless of other movie psychos, and he gets involved with a blind girl (Emily Watson), who would undoubtedly be in danger next.

Graham consults Lecter now in asylum to learn about the killer, dubbed as The Tooth Fairy, and gets puzzles and quiz to solve instead. This is a retread of Silence of The Lamb, no doubt, but they are not as interesting. In fact, there is plenty of stuff that didnt interest me as a Hannibal Lecter movie. Hopkins is good as usual, but more than occasionally he seemed to be parodying himself. But the humour sort of lightened up the otherwise tense movie. On the other hand, there is this tattooed Fiennes walking around naked, and that did not do anything nice to my stomach. It might excite girls, but it is as much excitement they could get. Norton doesn't look all that interesting, and his role could have easily mustered by the likes of Tom Cruise of other contemporary action heroes. I liked Emily Watson's performance though. Very seductive. Give me that babe anytime.

There were some genuine scary moments such as when Norton was going through some evidences. But that was thanks to the editing and shrieking music. Even Lecter gets to say boo a couple of time but you laughed at yourself silly for getting scared. Hey, the old man is not going to do anything. Apart from serving a musician on a dinner table, he just tries to look scary behind the metal mask and under the strong overhead lighting.

Bratt Ratner has done a decent job with the clichéd script. In the hands of a better director, say John Carpenter or David Cronenberg whose forte is atmospheric horror it could have been molded to a great piece of scary entertainment. But the director of Rush Hour seemed to have respected the script too much to come up with something more original. Hell, that is not his fault either.

Red Dragon is nice to see when it comes around in the cable/satellite TV, or for borrowing is someone has the original VHS/VCD/DVD. Watch it then. It has some fun, but overall you have seen most of the scenes before.