Today! Because I am not a man. I began as one, but now I am becoming more than a man –
Red Dragon (2002)
Directed by Brett Ratner
Starring Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Emily Watson (x2), Anthony Hopkins (x3), Harvey Keitel, Mary-Louise Parker, Philip Seymour Hoffman (x3), Anthony Heald, Frankie Faison, Ken Leung, Bill Duke (x2), William Lucking (x3), Frank Whaley (x2), Mary Beth Hurt, Ellen Burstyn
First of all, let me just say SHUT UP. I know the later Hannibal Lecter movies are not exactly beloved by audiences at large. This especially seems to apply to Red Dragon, mainly because of Manhunter, I guess? And okay, I get that – it came out first by quite a bit, and is a solid movie, so if you saw it first and were bitter Brian Cox didn’t get cast in Silence in the Lambs or something, okay. You hang on to that bitterness.
But no one can convince me that Manhunter is actually a better movie. It didn’t have the built in obstacle of needing to overcome a director like Brett Ratner at the helm, I’ll give you that – Michael Mann is by-far the superior filmmaker – but I feel that Red Dragon improves upon the original with every single actor in the film. Again, this isn’t necessarily to slight Manhunter – it’s a fine movie – but this seems to be the main argument against this movie, and I think it is ludicrous beyond words. The only aspect that I might say the original handled better is Lecter himself – because that movie didn’t treat him like he was somehow the star. The Red Dragon story has very little to do with Lecter, and when the original was released – five years before Silence – no one would’ve been clamoring for it be about him. This movie, of course, was concocted as a way to keep making Anthony Hopkins/Hannibal films, giving it that lingering cash-grab feel that people couldn’t shake.
However, if you get past that, this movie raises the bar for every character. Edward Norton makes a great Will Graham, Philip Seymour Hoffman brings a lot to the relatively minor role of tabloid sleaze Freddy Lounds, Emily Watson has one of the harder tasks playing the psychotic villain’s unaware blind girlfriend and is magnificent, Harvey Keitel, Mary-Louise Parker, Ellen Burstyn as the voice of Dolarhyde’s grandmother – all great. But what really elevates this film, not just over the original but fairly high onto this list, is the terrifying work of Ralph Fiennes as the Dragon, Francis Dolarhyde. The way the film is structured, Dolarhyde could’ve been a complete cartoon, what with the hallucinations, nudity, and over-the-top torture and violence, but Fiennes – an old pro at playing baddies (Amon Goeth before, Voldemort later) – does a masterful job. I love William Petersen, Tom Noonan, Stephen Lang, Dennis Farina, et al, but this movie really stacked the deck to try to get you to forget that it’s a remake. Also, the Red Dragon ending (which is also the book ending) is superior to Will Graham’s leaping-through-windows He-Man routine. Now get over yourselves, Manhunter snobs!
One of my favorite bits of mistake trivia is something I noticed when I first saw this movie in theaters – and I’m going to call it Best Euphegenia Doubtfire Cameo. When investigating one of the crime scenes, a generous look is given at a collection of VHS tapes, one of which is the seminal Robin Williams cross dressing comedy Mrs. Doubtfire. The problem, of course, is that this movie – while not having a definite time setting – certainly comes before Silence of the Lambs, which – to my knowledge – was not set in the future in any way. Silence coming out in 1991 realistically places the events of that film in that year, or before, meaning Red Dragon has to take place no later than 1991, despite being released in 2002. Mrs. Doubtfire did not come out until 1993. Boom! Suck it, Brett Ratner! I mean, they should’ve had a continuity person to check things like this, but timelines are confusing for this universe, right?
Three new Two-Timers joins three graduated Three-Timers in today’s big class, with Watson (#300 Punch Drunk Love), Whaley (#357 JFK), and Duke (#399 Payback) making second appearances, and Hoffman (#315 The Master, Punch Drunk Love), Hopkins (#350 Bram Stoker’s Dracula, #323 The Elephant Man), and the great William Lucking (#285 Harold and Maude, #287 Stripes) making thirds!