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Red Dragon  (2002)

Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Emily Watson, Harvey Keitel, Mary-Louise Parker, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Anthony Heald
Director: Brett Ratner
U.S. Distribution: MGM / Universal
U.S. Release Date: 10/4/02
Running Time: 2:04
MPAA Rating: R

FBI agent Will Graham seeks the help of Dr. Hannibal Lecter to help solve a case. Their reunion comes after a revealing scene in which Graham was nearly killed by Lecter, during Graham's capture of "The Cannibal". This is one of Red Dragon's finest moments, at least as much so as the film's real focus - the pursuit of another sicko nicknamed "The Tooth Fairy".

This riveting prequel to The Silence of the Lambs allows Anthony Hopkins to step back into the role of the notorious Lecter (and back in Oscar-winning form, I might add) for the third time and second in less than two years. With a generous amount of makeup and a bit of reddish-brown hair dye, he appears much younger than the actor's 65 years.

There really is so much more than just Lecter here. Edward Norton is terrific in the role of Graham. Emily Watson does a nice job as Dolarhyde's blind love interest (a sightless seductress). And Ralph Fiennes just has to be seen to be believed.

This isn't to say that Hopkins takes a back seat to anyone. It is still his show and his Hannibal Lecter is even more feared and beloved after another stellar performance in Red Dragon. His co-star Fiennes loses himself in a similarly complex portrayal of Francis Dolarhyde, a hare-lipped loner who lives a secret life as psychopath.

Two families have been brutally murdered in their homes. Graham, retired and in seclusion since his run-in with Lecter, is begged back by Jack Crawford (Harvey Keitel replacing Scott Glenn, who played the FBI boss in Silence and) who has a bigger plan for Graham than his role as an adviser in the case. Philip Seymour Hoffman is a tabloid reporter who reveals Graham's involvement, thrusting Graham and his family, and himself, into great danger.

Much of the credit for Red Dragon's success has to go to Brett Ratner - the same man who directed the Rush Hour films and The Family Man. He succeeds in getting this franchise of films based on Thomas Harris' novels back on track, after Ridley Scott direction of the disappointing Hannibal.

Thankfully, Red Dragon is not as gory as the last film. And yet, there are more than enough disturbing scenes and imagery to fuel this scary thriller, and to please those who are not so much worried about characters and plot.

With apologies to Julianne Moore, I will soon forget that Hannibal ever happened. Red Dragon is the film I had hoped it would be.

 WARNING: Spoilers ahead. "A movie like Red Dragon is all atmosphere and apprehension . . . This movie, based on Harris' first novel, has studied The Silence of the Lambs and knows that the action comes second to general creepiness. There are stabbings, shootings, fires, explosions, tortures, mutilations, and a flaming corpse in a wheelchair, but within reason." (Film critic Roger Ebert)

© 2002, Delton Perrodin

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