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"Red Dragon"

Directed by Brett Ratner.
Written by Ted Tally.  Based on the novel by Thomas Harris.
Starring Edward Norton, Anthony Hopkins, Ralph Fiennes and Harvey Keitel. 
Release Year:  2002 
Review Date:  10/13/02


That Hannibal Lecter sure is showing up in a lot of movies!  “Red Dragon” is the fourth Lecter theatrical release, but it—like the 1986 Michael Mann film “Manhunter”—is based on the Thomas Harris novel “Red Dragon” and serves as a prequel to the Oscar-winning film “The Silence of the Lambs.”  I actually liked the Mann version of the film, starring William Petersen of “CSI” fame, but author Harris did not...hence, a remake.

Unlike “Manhunter”, “Red Dragon” has just an unbelievable cast and in terms of the film’s balance in its characters, “Red Dragon” is better than all of the other three films.  Where to start?  Ed Norton is a good place, since he is the star of the film, and once again, Norton is just really watchable.  He’s not as good here as his best work, in “Primal Fear” or “The Score”, but his role as an FBI profiler here makes him look older than he really is and he makes it fun to watch as he figures out the crime going on around him.  Or maybe Harvey Keitel, who gives life to the FBI character that teams up with Will Graham; the role is thankless but Keitel does good work with it.  Ralph Fiennes is great once again, and that badass tattoo makes him look even more scary when he sits next to love interest...Emily Watson, who is great as an American and livens up her scenes with just her smile.  Philip Seymour Hoffman is a slimeball once again and he does this role so well, it’s no wonder that he plays it twice a year in major motion pictures.

Naturally, though, the money shots in “Red Dragon” come in the scenes featuring Norton and Anthony Hopkins, back for a third time as Lecter and seemingly loving every minute (or dollar) of it.  The best scene in this movie might be the one where Graham needs more information on Fiennes’ psychopath Frances Dolarhyde, so Graham visits Lecter as he is spending some time walking around a guided track, and when Lecter slips into a fake Southern accent, he had my audience howling.  It felt like Hopkins wanted to go out with a bang with this character, and I think he accomplished that.  But, how did someone wrangle this performance out of him?

That is the biggest surprise of this film—the direction is great, and the film was directed by Brett Ratner!  FUCKING BRETT RATNER!!  Don’t get me wrong, I thought that “Rush Hour” and its sequel were good films, but they were buddy action films carried mostly by Jackie Chan’s stunt choreography team and ad-libbing by Chris Tucker.  Here, the performances are very precise and there is not a lot of leeway, and the scenes featuring Norton and Hopkins (as well as Fiennes and Watson) are very, very well done.  When I first heard that Ratner was directing this film, I was sure it would be worse than “Hannibal”, which was a not-so-good movie in its own right.

The movie is a bit long, and the one place where “Manhunter” beats “Red Dragon” is in the handling of scenes involving phone calls by Graham to his wife to check in on his family; here, you don’t really get any of that until the end of the movie.  In an early scene of “Red Dragon”, Will tells his wife (so-so by Mary-Louise Parker, but given the writing, not really her fault) that he will call her...but, we never get to see any interaction with the twosome as he is working on the Dolarhyde case.

“Red Dragon” is a mostly-solid film, though, carried by a great script and great performances in the leads.  If you can get by people with their eye sockets carved out with glass, you should be just fine.

Rating:  $9.00 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09