Red Dragon (2002)

(In theaters, October 2002) To be entirely truthful, I never thought Red Dragon was a project worth doing. Thomas Harris’ original novel Red Dragon had already been adapted to the screen by Michael Mann as Manhunter, so why re-visit? The attraction, naturally, was money, with the success of the two “sequels” with an entirely new cast. Fortunately, this remake/prequel doesn’t screw it up, either as an adaptation or as a thriller. It is remarkably faithful to the novel save a few updated details (for a video-camera age), more attention to superstar Hannibal and a (slightly) more upbeat ending. The star power exhibited here is impressive, but truth be told is that most of them only turn in workmanlike performances. (Particular bravos to Ed Norton and Emma Watson; particular ehs-of-indifference to Philip Seymour Hoffman and Harvey Keitel) The film is stylistically far more accessible than Manhunter, and will probably age much better than Mann’s work. The earlier film has a few stronger areas: some of the acting is more memorable -though maybe not better-, and the toll taken on Will Graham is much more visible in Manhunter. The winks to the “latter” The Silence Of The Lambs and Hannibal are obvious from the first scene on, and so help form a trilogy that may not be completely seamless, but should flow together fairly well. As a simple standalone thriller, Red Dragon is a slick piece of entertainment, not without tics and annoyances, but much better than average.

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