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Mon October 7, 2002
This "Red Dragon" is a second-rate "Silence" imitation and a poor remake of "Manhunter."
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
Director Brett Ratner's remake of Michael Mann's "Manhunter" is a vain attempt to capture the wide-eyed horror of the original and marry it to the genius of Jonathan Demme's "Silence of the Lambs." Because there is no better serial-killer story than "Lambs" in cinema history, Ratner's version is a lamb sacrificed silently on the altar squarely dominated by Demme and Anthony Hopkins.
William Petersen of TV's "C.S.I'" plays a conflicted returning agent in "Manhunter," all the better for the taut treatment by "Miami Vice's" creator, Michael Mann. "Manhunter" ushers in great thrillers like "Seven" and "Silence of the Lambs" in the '90's.
"Lambs" was my second favorite film of the '90's, next to "Crying Game." The opening sequence, as the camera tracks Agent Starling through the FBI Academy and down into the Lecter's prison lair simultaneously reveals Starling's strength and intelligence and Lecter's cunning and charm. In "Red Dragon," when Ratner duplicates that shot with Edward Norton, not Jody Foster, going to confer with Hopkins' Lecter, he has recreated everything but Foster's strong vulnerability and Hopkins coiled brilliance. Everyone seems tired rather than energized.
This "Red Dragon" is a second-rate "Silence" imitation and a poor remake of "Manhunter." The cheese is here-- blatant references to "Silence of the Lambs" in dialogue and shots are cheesy. Hopkins is soft, lacking the taut dialogue and face of his "Lambs" Oscar turn, and Ed Norton makes Petersen look positively passionate.
Ralph Fiennes as The Tooth Fairy lacks the stature and menace of Tommy Noonan; Harvey Keitel misses completely Scott Glen's compulsion. However, Emily Watson is excitingly blind to the fairy's malevolence but not to his latent humanity.
As for "Hannibal," the last in Thomas Harris's trilogy, I heard an explanation of its failure that made sense to me: In Florence, a free Hannibal Lecter is not half as dangerous as the imprisoned one in "Silence of the Lambs," who, bound and gagged, still managed to dispatch his foes with ease. The lamb easily conquers the "Red Dragon."
John DeSando co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time" and vice-chairs the board of The Film Council of Greater Columbus.