Red Dragon Review

For all the classic adoration and achievements it achieved, The Silence of the Lambs was the tip of a nasty iceberg. Beyond its creation and before its heightened relevancy in culture, adaptations of other Thomas Harris work swirled the drainpipe of culture. Red Dragon is an inevitability. It is not as engaging as the first adaptation of Hannibal Lecter in Manhunter, but it is a tumble down from the quality found in The Silence of the Lambs. To consider Red Dragon as anything more than a clumsy encounter with the Brian Cox, near-perfect original, would be shameful. For that is what it is. A tense and unorganised ensemble coming together to capitalise on the on-screen presence of Anthony Hopkins’ rendition of the iconic cannibal character.

That is not enough to keep Red Dragon afloat. Edward Norton is thrown into this deep end with a performance as Will Graham. He is some form of detective. One way or another, it does not particularly matter. It is a story of confronting the demons that almost took you out in the first place. He seeks help, not revenge, though. Even then, it does not stop Lecter from being a nuisance. He kidnaps and kills his way through a resounding amount of individuals, but none of it makes much sense. There is a sense that Red Dragon wishes to go down a more violent route. The likes of David Fincher and his work on Se7en have certainly taken their toll on Brett Ratner’s direction and style here. For the worse, though, because when Ratner attempts to imitate Se7en, it is just that. Weak imitation.

Rough and uneven at the best of times, Red Dragon has within it the finer qualities of The Silence of the Lambs and references it often. It is violent and entertaining, however nonsensical it may get. Ratner is good at that. He crafts big showcases without much sense to them. The opening of Red Dragon should be more than enough to confuse an audience but will do little to delight them. But so does the book, and if anything, Ratner relies on this ensemble to go that extra step further than Harris’ text. Enlisting the likes of Harvey Keitel, Emily Watson and Philip Seymour Hoffman are great and valuable assets. They are necessary not just to the success of this feature, but to the potential continuations that were bound to follow should producers find themselves wanting more of Hopkins’ Lecter.

But it all ended here. Or, at least, it did for Hopkins. His final farewell to the role that made him an Academy Award winner. The first time around anyway. While Norton is the real focus here, as Jodie Foster was in The Silence of the Lambs, it is still Hopkins’ presence that takes precedence. He is the face of marketing; he is the face best associated with this feature. Rightly so. He is the man putting the most effort into this clumsy, hard-fought detective thriller. Ralph Fiennes and Hoffman are given the best deal on this one, but even then they are out of their depth and unable to keep up with such a flimsy and unproductive adaptation.

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