|Starring:||Edward Norton, Anthony Hopkins, Ralph Fiennes, Harvey Keitel, Emily Watson, Mary-Louise Parker, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Anthony Heald|
|Length:||2 hours 4 minutes|
"Red Dragon" remains truer to Thomas Harris's source novel than did "Manhunter." The film's opening and closing provide the biggest treats for fans of the series. This new film version begins with the capture of Dr. Lector (Anthony Hopkins) by agent Will Graham (Edward Norton) of the FBI. This was an element of the novel that was missing from "Manhunter." I'll not spoil the setup, but do watch for Oscar winning composer Lalo Schifrin and John Rubinstein (Zachariah) in small roles during this sequence.
While Ralph Fiennes is great as the villain, Francis Dolarhyde, I couldn't help thinking how cool it would have been to have Tom Noonan reprise his role from "Manhunter" as the killer. Fiennes is a good actor, but he has the wrong look and build for the part. Francis Dolarhyde was a misshapen giant. His size and facial deformity were important parts of his makeup. Fiennes didn't seem big enough for the part. He is great in the way he captures the emotional distress felt by the psychopath. "Red Dragon" goes into much more detail about Dolarhyde's background. This is a nice touch. Tom Noonan was able to convey the conflict of good and evil within the Dolarhyde character without all of the extra background information. I wonder what he could have done with this script!
Harvey Keitel is flat as Jack Crawford. He doesn't have the cocky, self-assurance of Dennis Farina's Crawford from "Manhunter" or Scott Glen's laconic strength from "The Silence of the Lambs." Emily Watson takes of the role played by Joan Allen in "Manhunter." Watson plays Reba McClane, the blind woman who becomes Dolarhyde's lover. Ms. Watson employs the peculiar mannerism of holding her eyes wide open in almost every frame of film. It is as if she is saying, "Hey, My Eyes Don't Work!" This choice on Ms. Watson's part is distracting to the point it almost sinks her performance. The usually wimpy Mary-Louise Parker gets to play a non-victim role for a change. Parker plays Graham's wife. Philip Seymour Hoffman plays the ill-fated tabloid reporter Freddy Lounds. The role was played better in "Manhunter" by Stephen Lang.
Ted Tally wrote the scripts for both "The Silence of the Lambs" and "Red Dragon." Hiring Mr. Tally was a wise choice. His additions to Anthony Hopkins' role match the tone of the book. Lector was but a small part of the novel and first film. For obvious reasons, the part had to be enlarged in "Red Dragon" In "Manhunter," Graham visits Lector under the pretense of asking for his help. In fact, Graham has been away from the hunt for a long time. He just wants to get the scent of a psycho back in his nose. In "Red Dragon" Tally builds on that premise, but has Graham also deal with his fears. Graham is seeking some sort of closure with Lector in "Red Dragon."
Danny Elfman's score is powerful. Look for an Oscar nomination for this one. I was reminded of Bernard Herrmann's great Hitchcock scores as I watched the film.