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Red Dragon

Starring Anthony Hopkins, Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Emily Watson
Screenplay by Ted Tally
Based on the novel by Thomas Harris
Directed by Brett Ratner
website: www.reddragonmovie.com

IN SHORT: "Completing" (so to speak) the trilogy in grand style. [Rated R for violence, grisly images, language, some nudity and sexuality. 120 minutes]

We will not get into arguments about whether Michael Mann's Manhunter, the first film adaptation of Thomas Harris' novel, with Brian Cox as Lecter, was a "good" film or not. The rules of the site stand: you shouldn't have to read the book to understand the film. Likewise you shouldn't have to see any of the other movies featuring Hannibal the Cannibal, The Silence of the Lambs or its sequel, Hannibal. There's one in-joke that may need explaining and one wink at the audience that you'll figure out all by yourself if you walk in unawares. The rest of Red Dragon, chronologically the first film in the trilogy, is so bloody damned good it won't matter.

So now that you know that forensic psychologist Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins, click for StarTalk) has an interesting nickname we can begin Red Dragon, in whose opening scenes we learn that the good Doctor is a four star gourmet who residence screams luxury, wealth and taste. Dr. Lecter is also a Patron of the Arts, endowing his local symphony and fete-ing their Board of Directors with elegant fare. The Board and the Doctor are concerned that one of their musicians has gone missing but that search is the concern of FBI Agent Will Graham (Edward Norton, click for StarTalk) who will eventually be struck by a bolt of lightning, among other things, and solve the case.

OK, we suck at being coy. The pre-title sequence pushes all the right buttons, more than remarkable considering that director Brett Ratner is best known for the two Rush Hour comedies, and had our packed theater squirming and giggling and bouncing in their seats (think in an SNL Hans & Franz accent) like little girls.

Post titles, Agent Graham is seen retired to a life of rebuilding boat engines in Florida. He's got his wife Molly (Mary Louise Parker) and young son Graham (Tyler Patrick Jones) to keep him busy and he really isn't all that pleased to see former FBI compatriot Jack Crawford (Harvey Keitel) at his door. Another serial killer is on the loose. He's killed two families in two different states, one lunar month apart. The pattern is obvious and the calendar gives them only three weeks to figure out who the bad guy, who leaves a Chinese character meaning "red dragon" alongside his work. One use is obvious. One is hidden in dialog. Either way, what is left behind are clues indicating that this homicidal maniac takes after the methods of good ol' Hannibal. Graham wants nothing to do with the case of the so-called "Tooth Fairy" -- the man leaves bite marks and various bodily fluids behind -- but is convinced to aid the Department in trying to get Lecter to analyze the mind of the maniacal man.

Lecter, of course, tries to play Graham for all it is worth. Hopkins' performance ranges from seductive to shrewd to flat out criminally insane and has, if anything, improved upon the performance which won him an Academy Award for Silence of the Lambs. Norton matches him step for step which leaves the never hidden from view bad guy, Francis Dolarhyde (Ralph Fiennes) to keep the audience sitting on the edge of their seats, waiting for the next victim to fall. Will it be the annoying, egotistical tabloid reporter Freddy Lounds (Philip Seymour Hoffman) whose paper, The National Tattler, has tried to publish stolen autopsy photos of the victims? Will it be meek, mild and blind Reba McClane (Emily Watson), who works with "Mr. Dee" at a photo lab. Or will it be someone else? Some poor sod who accidentally crosses paths with a man who feels he has been possessed by a 200 year old painting, currently in the possession of the Brooklyn Museum in New York.

If anything, that Red Dragon whips around the country with as much ferocity as one of the various kills depicted in the film, is the only handicap we encountered. New York to Atlanta to Chicago to Birmingham to Baltimore all in the blink of an eye. We don't advise buying the Godzilla sized drink to go with your popcorn, though if you do, you won't be leaving your seat. Red Dragon is, start to finish, a terrific, suspenseful and sometimes terrifying, edge of the seat ride.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Red Dragon, he would have paid . . .

$9.50

Wait on line if you need to. Do not miss it on the big screen.

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The Cranky Critic website is Copyright © 1995  -  2017  by Chuck Schwartz. Articles by Paul Fischer are Copyright © 1999 - 2006 Paul Fischer. All images, unless otherwise noted, are property of,©, ®, their respective studios and are used by permission. All Rights Reserved. Not to be used or copied for any commercial purpose. Academy Award(s) and Oscar®(s) are registered trademarks and service marks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.