Familiarity breeds contempt. At least it does the fourth timearound.
Red Dragon, the fourth, and I pray last, motion picture to featureDr. Hannibal Lecter, is a competently made thriller that should scare thepants off many a viewer…providing that you haven’t seen the previous threefilms nor read any of Thomas Harris’ novels. Otherwise, you may experiencetwo feelings other than thrills and chills: dj vu and boredom.
The film opens with FBI agent Will Graham (Edward Norton) capturing Dr.Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) at his home in 1980. The arrest nearlyclaims Graham’s life, resulting in his “early retirement” from the bureau.Years later, after the murders of two families, Graham reluctantly agrees tocome back to the FBI and assist in the case. Graham soon realizes that thebest way to catch this killer, the Tooth Fairy a.k.a. Francis Dollarhyde(Ralph Fiennes), is to find a way to get inside the killer’s mind. In orderto achieve that, Graham would have to probe the mind of another killer whois equally as brilliant and twisted. Take a wild guess as to who that is.
To their credit, director Ratner and screenwriter Ted Tally, who alsopenned the script for Silence Of the Lambs, are quite faithful totheir literary source. Yet, the film never manages to come to life the waythat Lambs, Manhunter or even Hannibal (which I thinkis much better than this film) did. Ratner and Tally are so keen on makingRed Dragon a clone of Lambs that they fail to establish anysort of individual identity for their film. The directing is competent(something I couldn’t say about Ratner’s previous “work”), butunderwhelming. That all-important atmosphere of danger, suspense and horroris never established. Danny Elfman’s overbearing, weak orchestral scoredoesn’t help matters any in the least.
I enjoyed Hopkins in both Lambs and Hannibal, but hisperformance here is pretty damn weak as are Harvey Keitel (as FBI agent JackCrawford) and Mary Louise Parker (as Graham’s wife)’s. They seem bored,phoning in their performances from wherever they were counting theirpaychecks. On the other hand, Norton, Fiennes and Emily Watson as Reba,Dollarhyde’s blind love interest, are quite good. They all bring convictionand believability to their roles, especially Fiennes who is no stranger toplaying human monsters (Schindler’s List).
I would like to suggest a plot idea for the fifth Hannibal Lecter film(c’mon, you know it’s going to happen): have Hannibal devour himself fordinner. That way we can be guaranteed that the series would mercifully cometo an end.