Red Dragon Review
Obtained from an FBI casefile:
In 1944, a boy and his younger sister living in Lithuania, are orphaned after their parent's lavish estate is invaded and pillaged by Nazis. The children are kept in a barn by scavengers during a particularly nasty winter - when the food runs out, the scavengers make a horrific decision. One day the girl is taken from the barn and is never seen again - only the boy survives... he is 6-years old and his name is Hannibal Lecter.
Fast-forward four decades and we find Hannibal (Anthony Hopkins) living amongst the rich and privileged, working as a psychiatrist. FBI agent Will Graham (Edward Norton) has enlisted the help of Lecter on one of his cases and realises almost too late, that Lecter is the man he is after. Lecter stabs Graham, they struggle and both are seriously wounded - Lecter is tried and convicted and Graham retires from the FBI, scarred both emotionally and physically. Two years later, Graham is approached by his former boss Jack Crawford (Harvey Keitel) who is in need of help on a case involving a serial killer called The Tooth Fairy (Ralph Fiennes). Graham reluctantly agrees, but is soon in need of help himself and turns once again to Lecter.
is the third film, the first remake and a prequel in the Hannibal Lecter trilogy, based on the novels by Thomas Harris. It is an updated version of Michael Mann's Manhunter, an excellent film, but one that was thought to be dated and which lacked Anthony Hopkins in the title role. Brett Ratner (The Family Man and Rush Hour), was signed on as director, having very large shoes to fill in the form of his predecessors Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs) and Ridley Scott (Hannibal). An inspired move or just hedging his bets, he secured the services of two of The Silence of the Lambs alumni: screenwriter Ted Tally, and production designer Kristi Zea, and the DP from Manhunter (Dante Spinotti), assembled an excellent cast and produced an admirable effort.
In addition to Hopkins, Keitel, Norton and Fiennes, Emily Watson gives a wonderful and charming performance as a blind woman smitten with Francis Dolarhyde (aka The Tooth Fairy), Philip Seymour Hoffman is a sleazy, annoying reporter for a tabloid newspaper, and Mary-Louise Parker plays the concerned, but loving wife of Will Graham. Anthony Heald and Frankie Faison are also along for the ride reprising their The Silence of the Lamb roles as Dr. Chilton and Barney Matthews. I was always curious how they would handle an obviously older-looking Hopkins... they were either unable or not too concerned about making him look younger and it was the first thing I noticed when Hopkins initially appears on screen - it distracted me for a fair bit of the film. He is also heavier and seemed to struggle physically in certain scenes. Lecter on the other hand still has his edge, and can slip into his mocking Southern drawl effortlessly.
But the stand-out performance in this film is Ralph Fiennes as Francis Dolarhyde. Not only did he have to speak with an American accent, he had to do it with a prosthetic cleft palate. His scenes with Emily Watson were poignant, and he humanised and garnered sympathy for this monster he had become. The only weak link in the cast was Edward Norton - he looked too young and lacked the hardness he should have had for the job he held. Mary-Louise Parker's role was almost non-existent, and her strong personality made Graham look even weaker. The Danny Elfman score is beautiful and adds audio punctuation to some of the more suspenseful scenes. All in all, the film is entertaining and is closer in atmosphere and look to The Silence of the Lambs, and having Hopkins finish the trilogy as Lecter is a huge plus.
The film is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and the transfer (from a near pristine print) is absolutely gorgeous. The colours are crisp and sharp and the black levels are excellent. The look of the film in places is dark and moody, but the detail is amazing. There is no edge enhancement, and very little grain.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is effective and quite stunning. The surrounds are fully utilised the length of the film. The dialogue is natural sounding and hiss-free. . Danny Elfman's score sounds amazing, but is never overpowering. There is also a French 5.1 Dolby surround track, English Subtitles and Spanish Dolby Surround.
Chapter Stops and Menus - In addition to the main menu, there are four other menus and twenty chapter stops. The scene selection menu consists of still photographs from the film, set four at a time against a casefile folder. The menus are a combination of animated lead-ins to a static background with selected audio clips of Hopkin's voice and the soundtrack playing.
Lecter's FBI File and Life History - A static, clickable casefile folder that explains a bit about Lecter's childhood, documents his criminal record and fills in some history.
Inside the Mind of a Serial Killer hosted by John Douglas - Famed FBI profiler John Douglas gives some insight into the mindset of a serial killer.
Anthony Hopkins: Lecter And Me - Hopkins in a brief interview, addresses the character of Hannibal Lecter.
THE MAKING OF RED DRAGON
Commentary with Director Brett Ratner and Writer Ted Tally - Ratner and Tally make an interesting and entertaining team on this commentary, Ratner being the more chatty of the two - they talk about casting, how they both came onboard, stunt anecdotes, they joke about Dino De Laurentis and explain some of the changes made to the film.
Music score commentary with composer Danny Elfman - Elfman proves to be not much of a conversationalist, and this particular commentary is a bit boring
Deleted Scenes, Alternate Versions of Scenes and Extended Scenes - Seven deleted scenes, four alternate versions of scenes and three extended scenes are shown.
A Director's Journey - Hands down, this 40-minute feature is the most fascinating of the extras - it is a detailed account of the making of Red Dragon, and the behind-the-scenes challenges and decisions that were met and made. It chronicles a year in the pre-production, production and post-production of the film.
Brett Ratner's untitled student film - A bizarre and poorly-made 'by the director when he was a student' 3.36 minute film with no audio.
Visual Effects - A 4.25 minute feature that shows duplicate and multiple examples of the same scenes with different visual effects.
Screen and Film Tests - An 11.40 minute feature demonstrating the different lighting for the cast members hair, Hannibal's cell, the dentures worn by The Tooth Fairy, the cleft palate on Ralph Fiennes, fire, the body-length tattoo, etc...
Make-up Application - A 45 second feature demonstrating the make-up application on one of the crime scene victims
The Burning Wheelchair - A 4 minute feature demonstrating the chilling experience the stuntman endured filming the burning wheelchair scene.
The Leed's House Crime Scene - A 3.34 minute feature explaining the work involved in creating a realistic-looking crime scene.
Storyboard to Final Feature Comparison
Trailers - Theatrical and Teaser Trailers.
Manhunter fans are fiercely loyal and will in all likelihood give this film a miss, but for all its faults, Red Dragon is a worthy remake, prequel and third installment in the Lecter trilogy. Superb acting (especially Fiennes and Hopkins), the beautiful Elfman score, and a darker cinematic look that is closer to the brilliant The Silence of the Lambs than Hannibal, make this extras-rich 2-disc DVD well worth the purchase.