Red Dragon (Brett Ratner, 2002, Germany/USA)

Made only a year after the highly successful though divisive HannibalRed Dragon marks the last appearance of Anthony Hopkins in the Hannibal Lecter franchise. Based on Thomas Harris's 1981 novel, which also served as the basis for Michael Mann's classic 1986 film adaptation Manhunter (interestingly, both films have as cinematographer the acclaimed Dante Spinotti), Red Dragon serves as a prequel to the events of Silence of the LambsRed Dragon is a considerably different adaptation than Manhunter and in many ways more faithful, as the Francis Dolarhyde character's obsession with Blake's red dragon is absent from Mann's film. That being said, Red Dragon is not a better film.

Bringing on the hot young director (at the time) Brett Ratner (who has never made another similar film to Red Dragon), De Laurentiis was also able to bring on a very high-caliber cast including Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, and Philip Seymour Hoffman, among others. By this point, Norton had already developed a reputation for being difficult to work with, and his performance here is one of the weaker points of the film. Fiennes does an interesting interpretation of Dolarhyde - he is less physical and intimidating than Tom Noonan, and more emotional. Hoffman is great as the sleazy journalist who Det. Graham attempts to use to entrap "The Tooth Fairy."

Red Dragon is a reasonably entertaining and workmanlike adaptation of Harris's novel. It lacks the stylistic flourishes and psychological moodiness of Mann's adaptation but features Lecter more prominently. Almost a sidenote in Mann's adaptation, here Hopkins is given top billing and given considerably more to do than in the novel. Fans of Hopkins and Harris's novel may side with Ratner's adaptation, but Mann's version is largely the more iconic one. Graham comes across as a much more tortured figure in that film compared to Norton here.



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