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Red Dragon (2002)
Movie Review by The Mortician

Red Dragon (2002) Taken from the splendid 1980's Thomas Harris novel (RED DRAGON) about "near psychic" investigator Will Graham hunting down serial killers with the assistance of one incarcerated Doctor Lecter (who Graham also caught), I saw it once in the theater and was pretty disappointed. Decided to re-read the novel (which held up in its beautiful intensity!) and then revisit the movie. It's okay, but...again, MANHUNTER, Michael Mann's 1986 spin on the same material, is SO MUCH better. Anthony Hopkins portrayal of Lecter is cooler in Red Dragon but beyond that, it's a case of a lot of things in the novel, which read so well...not translating so good onto the screen. For instance...the scene where the Red Dragon killer EATS an old watercolor painting in a museum, in the book it makes sense and you buy it...in the movie...it comes across as just plain silly! The way the killer is found is also updated (I won't spoil that for you---in the novel, it was 1980 or so when it was written so it was downright twisted, coming out of a 1970's family staple...) but again...in the modern world and in a more modern spin on the subject...doesn't work NEARLY as well. Ralph Fiennes as the Tooth Fairy/Red Dragon Killer, wow, he's pretty weak and just NOT SCARY. The "Grandma" child abuse issues are thrown in but underplayed and confusing in the movie, unlike in the novel, where they make sense. Plus Edward Norton playing Will Graham---terribly miscast. Unlike the HANNIBAL TV show, which gets the "grizzled cop" part PERFECT! William Peterson was also PERFECT as Graham in MANHUNTER- if they would've recast him in the part for this version----would've upped the tone of the film tremendously. Norton was just too young and pipsqueaky to be this veteran cop and slayer of serial killers. So...while it was a fun view coming right off the heels of reading the novel, I saw more of why this adaptation DIDN'T work- they tried to throw everything in the novel on the screen and it also felt so RUSHED---whereas Michael Mann pulled the best cinematic elements in the novel and made them work so perfect. Still, a bad Hannibal movie is worlds better than most of the stuff Hollywood churns out. RED DRAGON has some good moments, and I do love the story even though it READS so perfect compared to SEEING it acted out in this movie...And that was the problem I had with it originally, it was like a TV movie version of MANHUNTER...Plus it's a prequel to SILENCE OF THE LAMBS but Hannibal is ten years older than he was in SILENCE which is kind of jarring and takes some serious "suspension of disbelief" to get used to. Harvey Keitel is unbelievably bad as Jack Crawford; his performance seems very "off" the entire time. Still, the novel is a GREAT read and it's amazing the way the HANNIBAL TV show pulls from all the story ideas in the book, modernizes it, takes things in new directions, and does it waaaay better than this flick. Also, I have to say- the RED DRAGON storyline in general has been done to death- obsessed cop or FBI Agent goes after crazed killer and consults with a killer to get his man, but...Red Dragon (the novel and Manhunter) were the trendsetters in all this style, hard to imagine now it's been so OVERDONE in the decades since...both in film and TV and books...James Patterson owes his career to Thomas Harris, I'd say... Anyway, RED DRAGON is still enjoyable, just probably the weakest link in the Hannibal movies.

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