From Red Dragon

Red Dragon Tells Harris with Little Flavour

Red Dragon. 2002. Directed by Brett Ratner. Screenplay by Ted Tally; based on the novel Red Dragon by Thomas Harris.
Starring Anthony Hopkins, Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Harvey Keitel, Emily Watson, Mary-Louise Parker, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Anthony Heald, Ken Leung, Frankie Faison, and Tyler Patrick Jones.
Universal Pictures.
Rated R. 124 minutes.
Crime/Thriller

★★★1/2
0d6a134caa608fef2f1b56c4cebfa44e I’m a big fan of Thomas Harris and his Hannibal Lecter-centric novels. Everything about them appeals to me, though, I’m not particularly fond of Hannibal Rising. My favourite, an unpopular view, is actually Hannibal – I think it’s an intensely savage, relentless piece of work with a wild twist at the end. But close by equally are Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs. The Jonathan Demme version of the former is one of the best movies ever made.
In opposition, I’ve got to say that I prefer Michael Mann’s Manhunter over this version. Regardless of how well this sticks to the story in comparison, I still love the way Mann treated that adaptation; incredibly different and cool.
Part of why I’m not huge on Red Dragon, even though it’s a good movie, is because I don’t really find Brett Ratner all that interesting as a director. I can honestly say this is the only movie he’s directed I genuinely enjoy. Everything else he’s done is so ridiculously generic. There’s nothing I find appealing about his work. I think the only reason he succeeded in making me enjoy his work here is because Thomas Harris provided the backdrop. Plus, Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Harvey Kietel, Emily Watson, Anthony Hopkins, Philip Seymour Hoffman, a returning Anthony Heald and Frankie Faison – could it really have gone terribly wrong?
While I do like this movie, I don’t think there’s anything overtly incredible other than the performances. Ratner is a mediocre director at best, in my mind; plenty of people love him, I have no doubt. He is a successful man. Just not my cup of tea. Overall, the lack of a really palpable style is the only thing I find truly lacking about Red Dragon. The reason I loved Manhunter so much was because, aside from the excellent William Petersen and Tom Noonan performances, Mann injected the story with so much of his style that it came off so interesting and beautiful to watch. With this version, Ratner merely shows it to us. It looks good enough, but I don’t feel as much of the story as I do while reading Harris, or when I watch other incarnations of Hannibal Lecter on television and film.
35a1b1092ef44b60aa2d748f56f6fccbI’ve always thought the opening scene to Red Dragon showing Hannibal Lecter (Sir Anthony Hopkins) watching the orchestra was an impressive way to show why he kills. Part of him hates rudeness, another part of him also love the finer things of life – anyone who gets in the way of that is subject to being on his plate, as well as the plates of his dinner guests. With this sequence, we’re introduced to a piece of Lecter then also Will Graham (Edward Norton) shows up.
So it works in two ways, by both introducing Hannibal – though we’ve already seen him plenty on film – and simultaneously introducing his relationship with Graham. It’s an effective opener which draws us in immediately. Even more than that, the script starting from the beginning sets itself apart from Michael Mann’s Manhunter; I don’t know if you’d call this a remake, or more so simply another adaptation of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon. It’s an exciting, intense, and very wide opening in scope.

Being a fan of Edward Norton, he’s honestly one of the weakest links in this film. I think he has the potential to be a great actor, but some times he just looks to be phoning things in. There are moments in Red Dragon when he does excellent stuff. Other times he might as well be toeing a hole in the sand with his shoe. The character of Will Graham is complex. I think William Petersen brought something to the role in his own way, certainly Hugh Dancy has done a fantastic job with the 39 episodes of the NBC series, but Norton sort of feels generic here in the role. He’s not bad, I don’t mean to say that. There’s definitely a likability about Norton’s Graham, what I feel like I’m missing is the tortured side, the apprehensive man who doesn’t want to have to go back into what Jack Crawford (here played by Harvey Keitel) is asking him to do; something which nearly killed him before with Lecter. In Norton’s performance there doesn’t seem to be as much of that wary Graham, the one whose mental capacities allow him to feel and understand things no one ought to ever feel or comprehend.
35zXKpI do always enjoy Sir Anthony Hopkins, particularly as Hannibal the Cannibal. He has a highly quirky charm and chill at once. Some say it’s overacting, I say it’s an excellent fictional serial killer who has an odd affectation. It’s silly to me people will accept Hannibal and all his cannibalism, all the wild stuff he’s gotten up to over the course of his character-lifetime, yet then they’ve got a problem with how Hopkins is a bit hammy at times. Really? You’re going for that?
The only thing bad about Hopkins here is the fact I don’t really think he and Norton have much chemistry together onscreen. Their scenes are decent enough because Lecter is always creepy, but the back and forth between Hannibal and Will here is nowhere near as good as it was between Hannibal and Clarice in The Silence of the Lambs, and certainly doesn’t come close to touching the Hugh Dancy-Mads Mikkelsen energy in Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal series. It just doesn’t work as well as any of that, so it comes nowhere near some of what Harris did either. I think, again, this mostly has to do with Norton. He’s a fine actor, just not in this movie. There’s nothing impressive to me about his performance here, as say opposed to American History X or his debut performance opposite Richard Gere in Primal Fear.
reddragon3Ralph Fiennes is the actor who shines most of all in this good yet slightly dull version of Red Dragon. Francis Dolarhyde has always been a morbidly fascinating character, to me and to many out there. Even if Red Dragon is not my top favourite of Harris’ novels – though still amazing – there’s something about Dolarhyde in particular, even above Buffalo Bill, which terrifies me. Fiennes is one talented man beyond a shadow of a doubt. Here he brings a ferocious intensity to the role.
While it’s easy nowadays to forget this great performance due to Richard Armitage’s fabulously involving turn as Francis Dolarhyde on NBC’s Hannibal, Fiennes still knocks this role out of the park and into the lot. There’s a difference between Fiennes and the other incarnations, just as they’re unique in their own ways. What I like about Fiennes is that I find him highly unpredictable. He’s the type of actor who doesn’t telegraph his emotionality, he sort of springs into action so suddenly, which really comes through here. Truly, every single frame of the film in which you find Ralph Fiennes he is incredible. There’s a physical aspect to the character on several levels – he’s physically fit and actually a handsome guy, but inside he feels hideous, deformed, and like a monster. So what I enjoy is the fact that Fiennes is an attractive man, however, the makeup work for Dolarhyde’s hairlip gives him an unsettling feeling – not because of the scar, merely because of how Fiennes portrays Dolarhyde and the way he feels about his outer appearance. He’s at times equally sad and sympathetic, and also frighteningly savage.
Still, my favourite moment with Dolarhyde has to be his official introduction, a little over 40 minutes into the film. It’s such an unsettling view into his world, where we see him lifting weights and yelling at his dead grandmother whose voice scolds him – as a child and still as a grown man. Even creepier is the way he opens his big scrapbook, full of articles about Hannibal Lecter and Will Graham – it’s when he sort of strokes Lecter’s picture, specifically his smiling mouth, that you get this awful feeling in your gut. What an effective first look at Francis Dolarhyde here. Impressive sequence from Ratner, I must say.
reddragon4While I don’t find the movie to be poorly written, by any standards, for some reason I do not get the same feeling about Ted Tally’s script here as I did with his work on The Silence of the Lambs. Not sure exactly what it is about this screenplay, there’s not the same impact as his previous adaptation of Harris’ work. I do like plenty of scenes, but there’s less tension and suspense than in the Jonathan Demme directed film. Now, I’ve never actually read the script itself, so maybe there’s bits and pieces of Tally and his writing which didn’t make it through to what Ratner did onscreen. I’ll not know until I read the screenplay someday. But still, there’s an overall lack of the tensely cultivated atmosphere from Demme’s 1991 Harris adaptation, and I think there must be part of the problem there lying in the screenwriting. Then again, I’m not particularly big on Tally overall, as nothing else he’s done particularly impresses me other than The Silence of the Lambs.
2 vlcsnap-2010-09-04-08h34m49s254In the end, I can only give Brett Ratner’s Red Dragon 3.5 out of 5 stars. I know some will surely call me crazy. It’s not as simple for me to say this is an amazing movie. It’s just… not. Better than average? Sure. There are great performances, from Anthony Hopkins, Ralph Fiennes, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Emily Watson both of whom I forgot to mention – she does a fantastic job playing the role of Reba McClane, the blind woman who falls in love with Dolarhyde. Even further, the story itself is good enough to carry this even if the actors weren’t so great.
But the lack of style, a few little mistakes here and there, as well as a bit of a yawning performance from Edward Norton, all makes it hard for me to even feign agreement when people say this is SO AMAZING. I remember seeing this in theatre – I was so pumped, beyond excitement. It didn’t live up to the hype then, it still doesn’t now. I do own this on DVD, because I’m a completist; even own Hannibal Rising which isn’t the greatest either. I just really can’t get onboard with people saying this is incredible or that it’s better than Manhunter. Nah, not for me.
Still a decent adaptation of the Thomas Harris novel, Red Dragon is a good movie. Don’t think it’s better than it is, there are plenty of flaws and not enough style to Ratner’s direction to forgive them. See it and be your own judge, but do not get sucked into the hype. There are better visions of Will Graham, Hannibal Lecter, Jack Crawford, and Francis Dolarhyde elsewhere.

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Hannibal – Season 3, Episode 11: “…And the Beast from the Sea”

NBC’s Hannibal
Season 3, Episode 11
:…And the Beast from the Sea
Directed by Michael Rymer (Queen of the Damned)
Written by Bryan Fuller & Steve Lightfoot


* For a review of the previous episode, “…And the Woman Clothed in Sun” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Number of the Beast is 666” – click here

DISCLAIMER: DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED! I shouldn’t have to put this here, but people whine and complain. Why are you looking if you haven’t seen yet? This is a review, it’s bound to contain spoilers. GET OFF THE INTERNET!
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Will
: “He ate a painting
Jack: “He ate it!?
Will: “He ate it up

Now the hunt is on. With only two episodes left after this one, “…And the Beast from the Sea” has started off directly after Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) and Francis Dolarhyde (Richard Armitage) had their brief meeting at the end of last episode.

Will: “Jack Crawford, fisher of men. Watching my cork move against the current. You got me, again.

Francis: “The Dragon has never spoken to me before. It was frightening.
Hannibal: “What did it say?
Francis: “It called my name. It wants her.
Hannibal: “If it weren’t for the power of your becoming, if it weren’t for the Dragon you could never have had her.
IMG_1087We’re seeing the vengeance in Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen) come out of him. He has found a new friend, one who embraces him without the need for law, justice, or order. Someone else amongst the chaos of life and abroad the ocean of murder upon which they’ve both set sail. Lecter and Dolarhyde are kindred spirits. Will has scorned Hannibal; two heterosexual lovers, one turned away ultimately by his empathetic need to help, the other stuck in a muddy world of intellectualism and cannibalism.
The naughty doctor does one of his naughtiest deeds yet. Over the phone with Dolaryhde, he says the unthinkable.

Lecter: “Save yourself. Kill them all.
IMG_1088 IMG_1089Armitage continually proves he has the chops. Incredible actor. Not only is the physicality he’s bringing to the role of Francis Dolarhyde marvellous, the gentle and quiet way in which he portrays the madness of Dolarhyde is a revelation. Again, as I’ve said before, I love both Tom Noonan and Ralph Fiennes in their respective performances – Manhunter and Red Dragon – however, it’s Armitage who is able to bring the full scope of emotions, the density of the torment and suffering inside the character into our eyes right before us.
Scenes with Francis and Reba (Rutina Wesley) are very tense in this episode. Dolarhyde, in a scene familiar to many, watches some ‘homework’, as Reba lays in his lap drinking with him. All the while, Francis is watching footage of his possible next victims: through the frame walks Molly Graham (Nina Arianda). DAMN! Not that I wasn’t expecting it, but still – chilling, to say the least.
IMG_1091Slowly, it looks as if we’re seeing the Great Red Dragon head towards Graham and his family. Ominous and very terrifying. First, the dogs are sick. Though the doc tells Molly and her son it’s possibly due to the Chinese dog food she’s feeding them while Will is away, I know it’s Dolarhyde. He’s watching them, he takes care of the pets before moving in, and that’s just a part of the system.
As Molly leaves the vet, there’s a warning sign from the FBI on a bulletin board. Unfortunately, Mrs. Graham is not thinking about any of this. We watch on helplessly.
IMG_1096Will: “He’s contacted you
Hannibal: “How do you imagine he’s contacted me? Personal ads? Writing notes of admiration on toilet paper?
IMG_1092 IMG_1093 IMG_1094 IMG_1095Constantly there are wonderful nods from Bryan Fuller & Co. to the source material. Those familiar with Red Dragon will remember these bits as they pour in. Excellent little bites of Thomas Harris coming out the woodwork.
In the scene where Will heads back to visit Lecter, there’s so much animosity between the two which works up more and more every episode. They have an even better repartee now that Hannibal is the rejected lover type. Such a saucy and angrily ignorant Hannibal! Mads is also a revelation. I love that Armitage fans have come to the series, but don’t forget: both Mads Mikkelsen and Hugh Dancy have been putting in consistently nuanced performances since the start of Season 1.

Hannibal: “They’re not my family, Will. And I’m not letting them die – you are.
IMG_1100 IMG_1101Another familiar image crops up in maybe one of the most intense scenes ever on Hannibal. Tom Noonan had the whole creepy pantyhose thing going on over the top half of his face in Michael Mann’s Manhunter, and as Francis Dolarhyde makes his way into the home of Will and Molly Graham, where she and her son are sleeping alone, he has a similar style thing happening – teeth grimly apparent, stocking-like hat drawn down to his nose.
Such a creepy look for Dolarhyde. He looks just downright horrifying here, stalking around quietly over the property looking for the Grahams. It is incredibly tense, I can’t get over how much I was biting my lip during this scene!
Afterwards, as Molly escapes, Dolarhyde lets rip a gruesome scream “NO” into the air, his haggard teeth in full view. As if the Great Red Dragon were bellowing up and out of his guts.
IMG_1103 IMG_1104 IMG_1123What I find most interesting about this whole angle is that now it’s not only the FBI work affecting Will himself, the madness is spreading out from him and touching his new family. Molly takes a bullet, in what looks like her shoulder. Poor Will shows up at the hospital where Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) is waiting with Molly’s son.
Amazing scene between Will and his adopted son. Incredibly moving to see Graham and the boy together; he asks about Will and his time in the Baltimore State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Tough, rough stuff, and it’s a well-written, well-adapted scene from the work of Harris. More of the ongoing adaptation I love so much.

Wally: “You shouldn’t put this guy in a mental hospital. You should kill him.
IMG_1107Smarty pants, one of my favourites, Dr. Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas) has figured out that Hannibal hasn’t been on the phone talking with his lawyer as of late. She’s a sly one. Not only that, Jack Crawford shows up much to the chagrin and simultaneous pleasure of Dr. Hannibal Lecter. Though, the naughty doc is peacocking like a real saucy serial killer. He has this strut when Jack walks in, as if he’s holding every last card in his palm. Love the way Mads pulls off the classic character with his own way of doing things. Helps to separate himself from Anthony Hopkins, whom I also love. It’s just that Mads is another beast entirely; incredible performer.

Alana: “Would you have told me the truth?
Hannibal: “In my own way, I always have.
IMG_1108 IMG_1110 IMG_1111 IMG_1112 IMG_1113 IMG_1114 IMG_1115In this amazing episode, we actually see a physical fight between Francis and the Dragon. We get little bits of him fighting the fictional image of the Dragon, juxtaposed with the reality: he is beating the life out of himself. Dolarhyde beats himself bloody onto the floor. One of my favourites thus far including Armitage.
There’s a bunch of excellent imagery in this episode concerning the Dragon. Over and over, we see it. More and more, the Dragon wants Reba. Though, dear ole D is trying his hardest to suppress the desire to let the Great Red Dragon emerge. This is perfectly shown in their fight together, cutting back and forth between his vision of the Dragon and what’s truly happening – the battle within himself.
Another scene with Dolarhyde and Reba is impeccably done: she touches him over the lip, running her finger over his most maligned physical feature in his own mind. There’s an acceptance, but Francis tells her he’s afraid he will hurt her, that they cannot continue on. This hurts Reba, naturally, but something dark all of a sudden appears across his face. He’s basically watching the only good thing in his life be left behind, walking away from their relationship. Dolarhyde will now, no doubt, spiral downward further into the clutches of the beast within.
IMG_1116 IMG_1118Francis: “How do you know it’s dark?
Reba: “The lights aren’t on
Francis: “Do you remember – the light? Is it worse to have seen it and lost it?
Reba: “I know I can never have the light. But there are things I can have.

More Hannibal and Francis bonding time now, except Dr. Bloom and Jack Crawford are listening in. While the two eavesdropping hope to hear something, Hannibal abruptly tells him they’re listening. I actually dropped my jaw! It was an awesomely devilish moment that I’d not seen coming. What I imagined happening was that Hannibal would stay silent and soon Francis would soon come to understand something was not right. However, Lecter shuts it all down in an instant. He loves it, too. He loves to see Jack get frustrated.
IMG_1119Francis: “Do you know how easily she will tear?
IMG_1120 IMG_1121Finally – FINALLY! We get to see Dr. Lecter in a version of the iconic mask put on Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs. He’s being held in stasis, as Alana has everything stripped bare. It looks as if those privileges Lecter had are quickly going out the window. More and more, the sweet adaptation continues with recognizable scenes twisted into something slightly new. Dig it.
IMG_1122Will: “I’m just about worn out with you crazy sons a’ bitches
Hannibal: “The essence of the worst in the human spirit is not found in the crazy sons a’ bitches. Ugliness is found in the faces of the crowd.
Will: “What did you say to him?
Hannibal: “Save yourself, kill them all. Then I gave him your home address. How’s the wife?

The wear and tear of dealing with Hannibal is breaking the seams at the edges of Graham’s existence. When he goes to see Hannibal, the bad doctor helps him realize that Dolarhyde did not murder the families, “he changed them”. This is an excellent closing scene to another fantastic episode. Will is really starting to get angry and we’re seeing a different side of him now: a clear, angry Graham. So many times before, he has either been too forgiving with Hannibal, or too damaged by encephalitis and people not believing him to effectively do anything. Now, I’m wondering where Will is headed after this intense episode.
IMG_1125 IMG_1126Hannibal: “When you look at her now, what do you see?
Will: “You know what I see
IMG_1129Tune in next week with me, as the penultimate episode of Hannibal‘s swan song airs – “The Number of the Beast is 666”. We’re about to see an amazing send off to this series, one of the greatest television has ever seen I predict. Because these two final episodes are going to get serious – Will Graham is not happy, Hannibal Lecter is in a corner, and the Great Red Dragon keeps on becoming.

Stay strong, my fellow Fannibals! Keep trying to #SaveHannibal