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Red Dragon (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc One: Feature commentary; Music score commentary; DVD Rom features.
Disc Two: Character make up; Anthony Hopkins - Lecter And Me; Making of; Deleted scenes, including alternative and extended scenes; Visual effects; Screen and film tests; The Burning Wheelchair; FBI Profile: Inside The Mind of a Serial Killer; Brett Ratner's untitled student film; The Leeds House Crime Scene; A Director's Journey: Brett Ratner's Video Diary; Storyboard to final feature comparison.

HAVING feasted to stylistic excess in Hannibal, cinema’s most famous cannibal gets back to basics for the prequel to Silence of the Lambs and the first of author Thomas Harris’ highly-acclaimed novels.

Red Dragon taps into the origins of Dr Lecter’s evil, providing him with his first FBI adversary, in the form of Edward Norton’s Will Graham, and a scenario not unlike the one he is faced with in Jonathan Demme’s Oscar-winning Lambs, that of helping the bureau to track down another serial killer, nicknamed The Tooth Fairy.

Yet bearing in mind that the book has already been turned into a film in the form of Michael Mann’s highly-praised Manhunter, fans could be forgiven for thinking that this is a mere retread, designed to cash in on Anthony Hopkins’ undoubted appeal in the role of Lecter, despite having been ‘misplaced’ in the hands of Rush Hour director Brett Ratner. They would be right and wrong.

Red Dragon is likely to make big Box Office no matter how bad it is, yet to write it off as a mere cash cow would be to miss out on a film which is every bit as stunning as Silence of the Lambs - if not more so.

Ratner has achieved what many thought impossible and crafted a thriller which is just as assured as the other films in the series, striking a near-perfect balance between the grisly black humour of Ridley Scott’s Hannibal and the atmospheric dread of Silence of the Lambs, while also hinting at the directorial style of Mann’s Manhunter.

And he has coaxed some terrific performances from his first-rate cast, with Hopkins at his malevolent best, playing well off Norton’s dedicated Graham in the hunt for Ralph Fiennes chilling Tooth Fairy. But we’ll get back to them later.

Where Ratner scores most highly, however, is in his attention to detail, staying loyal to the book throughout, despite getting things started with something new - the capture of Lecter.

By adding Graham’s costly incarceration of the evil genius, viewers are immediately confronted with a different type of scenario when the investigator goes back to visit him - so whereas Clarice Starling’s respectful fear of Lecter stemmed from the killer’s reputation, Graham’s is borne out of personal experience.

It adds a new dimension to the cat-and-mouse game Lecter likes to play with his opponents and the scenes between the two are every bit as electric as those between Hopkins and Jodie Foster.

Ratner also lends proceedings a suitably creepy feel throughout, placing viewers on the edge of their seat and refusing to let them relax, while toying with their psychology just as mercilessly as Lecter does his opponents. This is a film which trawls the mire of human existence and leaves you feeling suitably grubby as a result, while also delving into the obsessive nature of both serial killers and the men who must catch them.

Performance-wise, the movie is also spot on, with Norton confirming what a terrific young actor he is and ably supported by the likes of Harvey Keitel, as his FBI superior, Jack Crawford; Philip Seymour Hoffman, as the sleaziest of journalists; and Emily Watson, as a blind woman who befriends Fiennes’ Francis Dolarhyde.

But it is Fiennes who makes the biggest impression, abandoning his usually dashing persona, to turn in a genuinely disturbing performance as The Tooth Fairy, a disfigured, tormented freak whose killings mark a transformation into the Red Dragon of the title.

He, above all, helps to ensure that Ratner’s film reverts back to providing the style of psychopath which made Silence of the Lambs such uneasy viewing - a killer every bit as terrifying as the real-life counterparts on which he is based, without ever succumbing to the overly exploitative methods of standard Hollywood fare.

Ratner should be applauded, for this one dazzles from start to finish, while providing the type of footnote that is a movie buff’s dream.

 

 

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