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Red Dragon

October 25, 2021

Red Dragon (2002)
Director: Brett Ratner
Actors: Edward Norton, Anthony Hopkins, Ralph Fiennes

Red Dragon (2002) Movie Review from Eye for Film

Synopsis: FBI agent, Will Graham (Edward Norton), is in early retirement after a close brush with mortality when apprehending Hannibal Lector (Anthony Hopkins). He is tempted out of retirement though, when the FBI need help with a case involving a serial killer of entire families. Graham is forced to seek help from Lector to crack the case.

Review: Red Dragon suffers by two obvious comparisons to antecedents which did far better things with the police procedural-cum-horror genre and the same characters (The Silence of the Lambs) and the very same narrative (Manhunter).

It’s an especially hackneyed homage to The Silence of the Lambs, getting wrong and flattening out into a mainstream, homogenous smudge all the distinctive elements of Jonathan Demme’s iconic 1991 work. Worst of all though, is when it has the gall to suggest itself as a direct prequel to that film with the closing sequence of Lector about to receive a visit from a certain female FBI agent; Red Dragon has done nowhere near enough to earn that association.

Firstly, the film is poorly cast. This was obviously made when Edward Norton was in his Hollywood ascendancy, but he doesn’t look world-weary enough to play the experienced Will Graham. And then there’s Ralph Fiennes thesping it up as the serial killer. The issue with his performance is that it’s very much a theatrical actor’s portrayal of scarred psychopathology and he’s not at all chilling or authentic. The less said about casting Emily Watson as the blind naïf in thrall to Fiennes’ killer, the better.

Narrative-wise and cinematographically, Red Dragon is a real cliché of CSI thrillers. Will Graham’s ‘breakthroughs’ by intuitively guessing what has happened by walking around the crime scene border on the risible. Befitting the strictly workmanlike oeuvre of its director, Brett Ratner, the film’s visual grammar is utterly undistinctive, and the musical score is far too generic and ubiquitous as well. (October 2021)

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