Director's Edition, Director's Cut
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Anthony Hopkins reprises his Oscar-wining role as the infamous Dr. Hannibal Lecter in the thrilling prequel critics are hailing as "A Suspenseful Masterpiece!" (Fox-TV) After capturing Dr. Lecter, FBI agent Will Graham (Edward Norton) retires - only to be called back to active duty to hunt down an elusive killer, "The Tooth Fairy" (Ralph Fiennes). Red Dragon is the electrifying, critically acclaimed movie that "returns the series to The Silence of the Lambs form" (Jack Mathews, New York Daily News).
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A grisly series of murders suddenly strikes two cities in the Deep South – Birmingham, Alabama and Atlanta, Georgia. In each case, an unknown intruder has broken into homes in the middle of the night and has viciously slain everyone there. He tortures, mutilates, and kills each family member, using mirrors as part of his killing ritual. He strikes on the night of the full moon.
Former FBI profiler Will Graham (Norton) very reluctantly agrees to come out of medical retirement to help solve the case, before the next full moon. Previously, Graham had caught the infamous Hannibal Lecter (Hopkins, reprising his role from “The Silence of the Lambs”) and had almost been killed by the homicidal psychiatrist. He asks Lecter, who is confined to a state institution for the criminally insane, to help him identify the serial killer. Lecter agrees, but only to further his own sadistically deranged agenda…
Meanwhile, the killer continues planning his next crime. He has already identified his next victims from photos he has seen of them. But he puts his plans on hold – at least for a while – when he is attracted by Reba McClane (Watson), a blind young woman who works in the same place he does…
I had previously watched “Manhunter” and thought it was very good. However, “Red Dragon” takes Thomas Harris’s novel to new, even scarier levels of horror thriller. Anthony Hopkins puts Hannibal Lecter’s cunning malevolence on full display here, and Edward Norton is very effective as Will Graham. Ralph Fiennes was very chilling in his role as the pitiable, grotesque, and frightening “Tooth Fairy” serial killer.
Although perhaps not quite as good as the later “The Silence of the Lambs,” “Red Dragon” is nevertheless an excellent film that effectively combines elements of a crime procedural, a thriller, and a horror movie. Every time I watch it, I can count on a sleepless night afterward…
Ralph Fiennes plays a very disturbed man who his battling his inner demons and only starts to show some humanity when he befriends a blind co-worker. It's a very different type of villian than Lector or Jame Gumb from the other film. They do attempt to explain his back story, but I felt that was somewhat unnecessary because it seems that they're trying to justify his behavior. Some things are better left to the imagination.
The only real problem I have with this movie is that they have Harvey Kietel playing FBI Director Jack Crawford after Scott Glenn played him masterfully in The Silence of the Lambs. I generally like Kietel but it seems he was really miscast in this film. He didn't seem to be Will Graham's boss as much as his confidant. It just didn't work for me.
Update: From what I've read, Scott Glen was offered the role of Jack Crawford but found the story (and the Silence of the Lambs) too disturbing and declined. Too bad. This film would have been better with him in it.
I gave it four stars figuring that for the non-reader this movie would satisfy.
I would give it three stars for the book reader. The Red Dragon is excellent and with the cast they have, they didn't need to put so much extra Hannibal. I guess the were afraid people would be disappointed without Sir Anthony dominating the movie. They should have taken a chance. The story holds your attention and with only bits of Hannibal in it, they would have enticed people even more with him.