Tagged William Petersen

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.

Hannibal – Season 3, Episode 8: “The Great Red Dragon”


NBC’s Hannibal
Season 3, Episode 8: The Great Red Dragon
Directed by Neil Marshall (Dog SoldiersThe DescentGame of Thrones)
Written by Nick Antosca and Steve Lightfoot

* For a review of the previous episode, “Digestivo” – click here
* For a review of the next epiosde, “..And the Woman Clothed with the Sun” – click here
Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 3.28.52 AMI want you to know exactly where I am. That way, you can always find me.” The words of Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) resonate through Will Graham (Hugh Dancy). He’d only just told the bad doctor how he wished not to know where Hannibal was, so that he couldn’t find him. Now, with Hannibal turning himself over to Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishburne) and the FBI, we turn over to the part of Thomas Harris’ books where the cannibalistic doctor is behind bars, looking at the world around him, as Graham will eventually come to look for his help.
Why would he need Lecter’s help?
Introducing – Francis Dolarhyde (Richard Armitage). We’ve finally come to the Red Dragon storyline in all its glory; that is, the Tooth Fairy has finally arrived. Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 3.29.31 AMThe introduction to Dolarhyde is unsettling. He almost orgasms while looking at a magazine with William Blake paintings in it (namely The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed in Sun). He works out in excruciating form. He gets tattooed, and Francis even looks for a set of nasty old false teeth; chomp chomp. Then, he bows in his attic in front of a Blake painting, the tattoo of the Great Red Dragon on his back. Quite a creepy opening for this episode.

I think that the end of this season, with all the Tooth Fairy/Francis Dolarhyde business, will go out with a huge bang. There’s so much creepiness happening with Armitage portraying Dolarhyde. This guy is incredible! So much of that character involves the actor being alone, wrestling with his inner self that’s busting out. The visuals that Hannibal as a show has brought really serve the Dolarhyde story well; some excellent shots including shattered glass, the moon. I anticipate the Dolarhyde portion of this season will go off well, episode after episode. Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 3.30.28 AMNow, Hannibal is in his memory palace. He sits and listens to a young boy sing a hymn, presumably in one of the Italian churches he admires so much. All the while, in reality, Hannibal is cuffed to the floor, chained up wherever he goes, and his DNA samples are being taken. Finally, Hannibal stands in a big cell with clear glass.
BUT WAIT – TIME JUMP! Three years have passed.
Hannibal is having a chat with Alana Bloom (Caroline Dhavernas). He envisions it as another chat in his grand old office. However, he’s behind bars and wearing a jumpsuit. That being said, Hannibal does seem to have garnered a bit of privilege; no doubt he offered information which lead to some sort of deal being struck. He’s able to have a bit of decent food and drink, some books and such.
Congratulations, Hannibal – you’re officially insane,” Alan calmly tells him in a matter-of-fact tone. Even with the perks, he’s still a mad cannibal doctor. Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 3.30.17 AMSplendid scene between Hannibal and Dr. Frederick Chilton (Raúl Esparza). They eat a dessert which Hannibal once made for him, but with cow’s blood “only in the derogatory sense” he tells Chilton.
What I love about this scene is how Chilton basically taunts Hannibal with the idea of the Tooth Fairy; you can just about feel Hannibal boil with jealousy, wishing he could still be out indulging his violent, nasty little pleasures.

Part of my love for Hannibal as a television show is how Bryan Fuller keeps everything recognizable to readers, yet fresh all the same. There are twists and turns that I understand as a reader/fan of the Harris novels, however, the way Fuller brings them in and twists them in his own right, switching up characters and certain events from the books (as well as their film incarnations); it really works magically. That’s how I feel, anyways. Plus, the visual nature of the show really works with so many of the themes going on. Added to the fact it’s just incredible to watch and look at. I find it so invigorating not to have every single little bit of character/story given up through dialogue. We get so much via visuals that I think it’s part of why NBC cancelled it, and part of why a lot of people seem to trash it. They don’t spoon feed everything to the viewer. Sometimes it may actually benefit for people to have read the books and seen all the movies, more than once even. Because there are bits of character (particularly I think of Mason Verger who was explored but only partly in the series) which come out that aren’t written blatantly for us through the script and dialogue. Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 3.31.11 AMWill Graham is a ways down the road now, with a wife and a boy he’s adopted as his own. Things seem great, only Jack shows up needing help with the new Tooth Fairy murderer out there killing families under the moon. Graham reluctantly goes along to help, mostly because his wife Molly (Nina Arianda) insists due to the fact he would have done the right thing, and she worries that this man is killing whole families.
If I go, I’ll be different when I get back,” Will tells her.
So we’re seeing a different side to Will now, the part that really began in Harris’ Red Dragon. Will has been scarred by Garrett Jacob Hobbs, he has been scarred even deeper by Hannibal Lecter. Now, as Jack comes knocking, we can see that at least partly, certainly never fully, Will has let go of that side of himself; he has tried to let go of the hold Hannibal had over him. He knows that going back to the what he does best will cause problems, but ultimately also understands he might be the best man to bring down a killer such as the Tooth Fairy.

Our old lives hover in the shadows,” Hannibal writes to Will in a letter. “It’s dark on the other side, and madness is waiting.

Watching Will Graham walk around inside the latest crime scene, courtesy of the Tooth Fairy, is a spectacularly chilling ordeal. It rings very much close to the Michael Mann-directed Manhunter scenes with William Petersen; there’s a raw, subdued quality about Mann’s scenes that I think really come through here. Not only that, Fuller shows us how Will is not coping well with having to go back into this mode of thinking. Before he is able to see the design of this killer, Will almost hyperventilates before going into GrahamVision. It’s a great, disturbing scene.
You can feel Will’s hesitation, his reluctance at having to go back into his own twisted mind to capture the thinking of another, much more violently twisted mind. Fuller knows what he’s doing, and I continue to believe that, despite my fondness for Petersen in Manhunter, there is no doubt in my mind that Hugh Dancy is the ultimate, definitive portrayal of Will Graham. Not only does TV allow for the ability to stretch out the character, really get into the meat of his development, but Graham simply embodies everything I think Graham is about; there’s that loner-ish presence, his nearly autistic spectrum attitude at times, and the PTSD of his work truly comes through, especially at this point in the series.

There’s one amazing moment as Will proclaims “This is my design” where he represents perfectly two symbols from the Harris universe: the wings of the Great Red Dragon and the wings of the blood eagle. Mostly I think it’s intended to be the Red Dragon, but I thought it was also reminiscent of that angel-like look the blood eagle attains; it has that essence of transformation, which the Red Dragon encompassed, as well. Either way – fantastic visual! Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 3.31.29 AM I find it another great twist on the part of Fuller to have Will Graham suggest to Crawford, instead of the opposite, that it might be best for him to go see Hannibal – “before I’m driven to it through desperation,” Will tells Jack. Not only is it fun to switch things up, this serves a great purpose: we see how addicted to that sick relationship with Lecter he truly is, we see the sickness of Will’s inability to let go by him going back. He doesn’t actually have to, he is capable somehow on his own, but there’s a part of Will that never wanted to let Hannibal out of his life. Good form, Fuller. Good form! Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 3.32.06 AMThe end of the episode was classic, as we see Will and Hannibal come together, face to face for the first time now in three years. It’s a perfect moment while they greet one another and then cut to black. Neil Marshall – a fantastic director in his own right – does well at the helm of Hannibal‘s latest episode. He goes for some wild visuals, but does not go as deep and out-there as some of the other episodes of the series, and certainly some of the earlier episodes of this freaky new season. I can’t wait to see more now that Armitage is in the mix playing Dolarhyde. Getting really interesting.
I love the duality between Hannibal and Dolarhyde which is being set up. Hannibal has always been the villain, but I think we’re about to see him in a much more evil, malevolent light than ever before. Awesome scene goes from Hannibal collecting clippings about the Tooth Fairy, to Dolarhyde collecting his own scrapbook of Hannibal the Cannibal clippings. Super creepshow stuff! Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 3.30.58 AMStay tuned, I’ll be back every week reviewing each episode. Next one is titled “…And the Woman Clothed with the Sun”.
For now since this has been sadly cancelled, forge ahead with me as we unfortunately say goodbye TO THE GREATEST SHOW ON TELEVISION RIGHT NOW!