Film When he was at college, film director Joe Dante created ‘The Movie Orgy’ a seven hour epic collection of B-movies, 16mm films, commercials, and trailers. Watching the Red Dragon, at wondered at times if he had been hired to do something similar, that Brett Ratner might have been a way of taking his name off the work. Never has a film felt like so many other films sewn into one, only in this case on purpose. Each of the films is quite entertaining in their own way, but together they make for a insubstantial experience. My only hope is to review each in turn.


Red Dragon (Brett Ratner, 2002)

Francis Dolarhyde (Ralph Fiennes), a man whose childhood of was filled with nightmares and abuse, who falls for a blind woman Reba McClane (Emily Watson). This is the story of their brief liason and how Dolarhyde cope with his urges of evil in the face of her tenderness. Fiennes and Watson give startlingly good performance in a very stylized piece of work. Cleverly the dialogue is pulled back to allow the moments of unspoken connection. Worth seeing for the moment when Fiennes fights between his madness and the love of a woman and loses.

Red Dragon (Brett Ratner, 2002)

A prequel to the Oscar winning film, ‘Silence of the Lambs’ in which Hannibal Lector (Anthony Hopkins) offers his services to a criminal profiler (Edward Norton) on a case. Hopkins still brings moments of real menace to Lecter, Norton is a great springboard, but you do feel you would have liked to have seen more of the Lector outside of his cell, a brick perfect re-creation of that found in the following movie.

Red Dragon (Brett Ratner, 2002)

Will Graham (Edward Norton) is a criminal psychologist scarred by his last hit, a psychologist who turned out to be the one criminal he was tracking. Brought into a new case by his old boss (Harvey Keitel), a serial killer with a predilection for entire families, he finds his own kin in danger. Inevitably weak as a re-make of ‘Manhunter’, this does have it’s moments, especially in the dependable hands of Keitel who looks and sounds just like he did all those years ago in ‘Thelma and Louise’. I would have like to have seen more of how the case effects his home life, especially when his wife is being played by the talented Mary-Louise Parker.


So we’ve essentially got ‘Thelma and Louise’ with bits of ‘Lambs’ and some TV movie all cobbled together. When one impinges on the other there is an uneasy feeling – the kind which happens when unrelated TV shows crossover during the sweeps week on American television. And because there are so many high profile actors there isn’t any kind of balance. For example, Emily Watson is giving an extra-ordinary performance, but we feel like we’re missing large chunks of her emotional arc. There are moments when something important is happening in the main plot and we needlessly cut away to Lector in his cell in quite a comic situation. You can feel the walls of the cinema crashing about around you.

Remember when you saw ‘Hannibal’ and it kept cutting away to Clarice Starling, even though she didn’t seem to have anything to do with anything. Well imagine it’s Lector this time. Given a few more minutes and Graham might have thought everything Lector gives him through himself. That he didn’t weakens his character and film as a whole. Heretical perhaps, but I would have preferred this thing without Lector – it might not have had as high a profile, but it would have made more sense.

[PS When is this film set? The opening is set in 1980, and the next caption says several years later. The technology is deliberately foggy, but I did feel like I was trying to date the UNIT adventures in Doctor Who again. At one point as an incentive, Graham offers Lector access to a computer archive. Several years still makes it sometime in the 1980s. Would we be seeing Lector slogging it out with an Apple II?]

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