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Date Posted 10/23/02

Red Dragon: Review

By: Tom Hoy


The movie Red Dragon, adapted from the Thomas Harris novel of the same name (which I recommend) concerns a killer named "the tooth fairy", real name Francis Dolarhyde (not spoiling anything) who kills a family every full moon. He is so named because of the unusual teeth marks left on his victims. Enter FBI investigator Will Graham, the man who caught Hannibal the Cannibal Lecter, who has a knack for seeing into the mind of a killer. He reluctantly comes out of retirement to examine the case, and along the way consults Hannibal Lecter to catch the tooth fairy.

A main complaint of mine is that the story can't seem to decide what it's really about. It focuses on Will Graham and his reluctant investigation, but also on Francis Dolarhyde. Neither are used to their best potential, leaving the movie with an uneven feeling.

Hannibal Lecter comes through very well in many scenes, conveying the sophisticated creepiness which made him so memorable in "The Silence of the Lambs". Anthony Hopkins has two things working against him that can't be overcome. Number 1 is the script. In many scenes Hannibal is used for comic relief. The bad thing is many of the things he says and does are genuinely funny. This takes the edge off his character. Another thing, is that he is predictable. Hannibal Lecter is an extremely well known persona. Nearly everyone knows Hannibal, and the character of a psychopathic genius is somewhat of a cliché. Hannibal just can't have the impact he used to.

These complaints aside, this movie does many things very well. The acting is quite good for most characters, and all three main players (Hannibal, Graham, and Dolarhyde) in the movie turn in very good performances. Particularly noteworthy is Ralph Fiennes as Francis Dolarhyde.

He shows all the facets of the villain's character. He shows his evilness, his relationship with people in society, and his history, and how that shaped him into a monster. I even came to sympathize with him a bit, although he inflicts horrible things on other people, he is a tormented soul who has had horrible things inflicted on him. In one scene, we even realize he has something resembling a conscience. Ed Norton turns in a good performance as Graham, but we really aren't allowed to see his character in its entirety. He isn't developed enough, and we don't get to know him quite enough for a protagonist; he just doesn't get the screen time his character needs.

This movie does what a thriller should do. It is suspenseful, and it has atmosphere, and it isn't predictable. A few scenes will even make you jump. A lot of the violence in this movie is implied, or we see its effects. Characters built on action just aren't as scary as ones where their actions are implied but never shown. It really helps the atmosphere and tension, and a character's creepy effect. The lighting in this movie is quite dynamic, with lots of contrasts, and toying with light that would seem at home in a Victorian ghost story. It is dark, and dank, and this accentuates its dramatic effect.

The director, Brett Ratner, is most well known for directing the Rush Hour movies. With Red Dragon he performs quite admirable, doing a much better job than I expected, and establishing himself as a maker of more serious movies.

Is this worth seeing? Most definitely. But it's not without its faults. However, the good outweigh the bad, making Red Dragon well worth seeing.




Links: http://www.reddragonmovie.com Email the writer at Xombie35@cs.com


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