Red Dragon (2002)


Dave’s 3-Word Review:
A deserving remake.

My dear Will, what is it that they say about imitation? Ah yes, it was that “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”. I believe it was Charles Caleb Colton that first said it. Such a remarkable man Colton was. Anyways, what happens when you’re the one imitating yourself? After all, we are the ones that know ourselves best, aren’t we? Not even twenty years after our first film (Manhunter), we come out with Red Dragon, which is unquestionably the original film’s remake. I wonder – have you seen it, Will? You’ll have to meet with me and tell me what you thought. Ta-ta. – H.

Will Graham (Edward Norton) retired from the F.B.I. after he caught the cannibalistic killer, Hannibal Lecter. However, his gifted ability to dive into the minds of killers gets him working on a new case involving seemingly random kills by a man deemed “The Tooth Fairy”. In order to help him with the case, he turns to psychologist, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) for guidance (something he often did before he found out Lecter’s true identity). As Hannibal pierces through Graham’s psyche, Graham learns more and more of what he needs to in order to take the “Tooth Fairy” AKA the “Red Dragon” down for good.

Now this film is a remake. None of that re-imagining garbage that we often see, this is a remake plain and simple. Even some of the dialogue was exactly the same. The only difference was the performances by the leads – including Hopkins, Norton, and Fiennes. Let’s start with Anthony Hopkins. His performance alone turns Red Dragon into a bearable psychological thriller. Brian Cox’s performance in Manhunter was cool and calculated, but didn’t feel like Hannibal. We all know how well Hopkins can pull the role off, and he did it again for this film. He had that greased back hair, that cold wide-eyed stare, that slow-talking demeanor, and of course, his slink, everything that made him scary in The Silence of the Lambs made him again scary in this one. Edward Norton did a great job as Will Graham, but not as solid of a performance as in Manhunter or the Hannibal TV series. Actingwise, he did fine, but it wasn’t memorable enough, because he lacked a certain creepiness factor all on his own that the character is supposed to have. Now on to Fiennes – I’m a bit torn between performances from Fiennes and Tom Noonan for the role of Francis Dolarhyde.  Each performance had its own unique qualities, but I think I prefer Fiennes, because I buy his ability to act in these types of roles.

I can easily say that this film felt more like a Hannibal film in general. That’s not saying a lot, but tone can change how a movie feels tremendously, and in the case of these two films, it’s true. The tone along with the performances easily makes Red Dragon the superior film. It’s also pretty interesting to note how Anthony Hopkins can pull off a prequel ten years after The Silence of the Lambs was released…that’s pretty impressive for an older guy. Now, Norton’s character plays oppose of Hannibal’s pretty well, but as I’ve said in a previous review, it’s Clarice Starling that really deserves to share screen time with Hannibal. Without her, the movie does lose some of that appeal.

Overall, Red Dragon is more understandable than Manhunter and Hopkins performance as the cannibal made Manhunter a forgettable and useless film in the eyes of the series. Sorry Brian Cox, you tried your hardest, but man oh man can that Hopkins guy act. .


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