Red Dragon (2002)

red dragon poster 2002 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Fiennes, good story

Hopkins over-acting, Norton's a bit wishy-washy

Movie Info

Movie Name: Red Dragon

Studio: Universal Pictures

Genre(s): Suspense/Thriller/Horror

Release Date(s): October 4, 2002

MPAA Rating: R

red dragon tooth fairy ralph fiennes

Smile like you mean it

A killer nicknamed the Tooth Fairy has struck two families.  The FBI agents are stumped and are worried he is about to strike again.  Special Agent Jack Crawford (Harvey Keitel) realizes he needs help and reaches out to retired FBI Agent Will Graham (Edward Norton).  Graham agrees to profile the killer but finds he is going to have to face Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), the man who forced him to step down as an agent when he was injured capturing him.  Now Graham has to see through Lecter’s lies to find the truth and face his own fear.  Meanwhile the Tooth Fairy (Ralph Fiennes) finds himself doubting the transformation he is undergoing when he meets a woman (Emily Watson) who could change his life.  Can the Tooth Fairy be stopped without Will’s sanity or family at risk?

red dragon tattoo ralph fiennes

Now I’m going to make a butterfly

Directed by Brett Ratner, Red Dragon is a horror murder-profiler thriller.  Adapting 1981’s Thomas Harris novel, the film follows 2001’s Hannibal and is the second adaptation of the novel after Michael Mann’s acclaimed 1986 thriller Manhunter with Brian Cox playing Lecter and William Peterson in the Will Graham role.  The movie was met with mixed to positive reviews and strong box-office return.

With the initial success of The Silence of the Lambs in 1991 and its gory sequel Hannibal in 2001, a remake of Thomas Harris’ original book Red Dragon was inevitable.  Though Manhunter has found cult popularity since its release, it wasn’t very noticed until Silence of the Lambs came out in 1991.  Red Dragon had a lot going against it being a prequel, a remake, and under the helm of Brett Ratner whose previous films were mostly just action comedies.  That being said, I don’t think Red Dragon is that bad of a film.

red dragon flaming reporter phillip seymour hoffman

Wow…someone doesn’t like fake news.

The story of Red Dragon has always been smart.  It was an early profiler piece with a detective who had to “get into the head of a killer” to find a killer.  The story has a mystery and some genuine jumps and scares.  It flows and weaves.  You could argue that Manhunter did it just as good (or better), but it is interesting to see a completely different take on the same story at times…with a different more horror-based method of storytelling.

The movie is pretty faithful to the book and it was smart enough to get strong actors to help bring it to the screen.  Edward Norton is “thinky” enough to pull off the Will Graham character…but it would have been nice if they had a less boyish Graham and more brooding.  Ralph Fiennes, like always, was perfectly creepy as the Tooth Fairy Francis Dolarhyde and really gave it his all.  The supporting help of Keitel, Watson, Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a skuzzy journalist, and Mary-Louise Parker as Graham’s wife also helped boost this relatively smart suspense script.

red dragon hannibal lecter anthony hopkins will graham edward norton

This film will be mine…oh yes, it will be mine!

While the film was a means to bring the story into the Silence of the Lambs film series by bringing in Anthony Hopkins as Lecter again, it kind of messes up the flow of the movie ironically enough.  It seems like a pretty intense crime film, but with Lecter’s popularity, his role in the story was made greater.  These scenes are good for Norton but kind of seem like grandstanding for Hopkins who is on the verge of overacting the role that really made him famous.

Red Dragon is a good suspense movie with a number of jumps.  It is a big improvement over Hannibal which had a bad story and tried too hard to be crazy.  Yes, Ralph Fiennes character is over the top, but I can believe him more than a disfigured guy in a wheelchair feeding people to flesh-eating boars.  Even if you are a Manhunter lover, and give Red Dragon a chance and check it out if you skipped it.  It is its own entity and has its own creepy feel (and aspects of Red Dragon were used for the NBC Hannibal series).  Red Dragon was followed by Hannibal Rising in 2007.

Related Links:

Manhunter (1986)

The Silence of the Lambs (1991)

Hannibal (2001)

Hannibal Rising (2007)

Hannibal—Season 1 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Hannibal—Season 2 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Hannibal—Season 3 Review and Complete Episode Guide

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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