Reviewed by: Jonathan Rothgeb
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Harvey Keitel | Directed by: Brett Ratner | Produced by: Ridley Scott, Dino De Laurentiis, Martha De Laurentiis | Written by: Ted Tally | Distributor: Universal Pictures
“To understand the origin of evil you must go back to the beginning.”
For some years now I’ve been quite the fan of mystery novels. I grew up reading “Sherlock Holmes” and Agatha Christy novels and lately have enjoyed reading the forensic type mysteries by authors such as Patricia Cornwell and Tami Hoag. The disturbing aspect of the more contemporary novels is that they have become quite dark, concentrating on the psychotic and macabre. The movie “Red Dragon” has picked up on this popular theme.
“Red Dragon” is the prequel to “Silence of the Lambs” and follows the other blockbuster “Hannibal”. This is actually the second making of this film, the first being “Manhunter” (1986) starring Brian Cox as Hannibal. With the overpowering popularity of Anthony Hopkins in “Silence of the Lambs” and “Hannibal” playing the part of Dr. Hannibal Lector it seemed prudent to the powers that be that they should remake the film using Mr. Hopkins. The re-make certainly does justice to the original, out performing it in both acting and film quality, though it does bring with it a more grisly flavor.
The film takes us back to the introduction of Dr. Hannibal Lector only briefly to introduce us to the main character, FBI agent Will Graham (Edward Norton). We discover the somewhat special ability that agent Graham has to get into a suspect’s head and create an accurate profile that helps him catch Hannibal. Although Hannibal is apprehended, it leaves agent Graham with both physical and emotional scars that force him out of the bureau. The film does a great job of re-creating this sequence of events, bringing those who may be unfamiliar with the other two pictures up to speed. What follows is a very suspenseful ride through the mind of both a psychotic killer and an FBI agent who reluctantly agrees to help on this new case. The writers do a fantastic job of getting the viewer involved in the thought processes of these characters as well. We are shown not just the darkness of a killer but the obsessions of the police who are consumed with finding him.
Many fans of this series, including myself, were disappointed with “Hannibal” which substituted gore for good screen writing. In “Red Dragon”, I’m happy to say that the writing is compelling! “Silence of the Lambs” has returned. The film, though dark, is not weighed down with bad language and gore. There is one brief female topless shot and many shots of a man’s rear-end. There is some vulgar language and uses of the Lord’s name in vain, but most of the blood scenes are handled with some reserve with none of what I call “open anatomy shots.”
I do caution you though—and very reluctantly recommend this movie (for it is not for the faint of heart). I started this review with saying how modern day mysteries have become submersed in the macabre and so too have contemporary mystery films. They are no longer satisfied with writing a good who-done-it but feel compelled to flood our senses with images of blood and explorations into the dark, satanic minds of murders. 1 Peter 5:8 tells us that the devil is a lion that walks about looking for who he can devour. We know that for Christians this world is not our home and that there is great evil that prowls this globe, but God tells us in 2 Corinthians 10:5 to cast down those things which seek to reign above God and to bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. I don’t think I need to see every psychotic, dark crevice of a man’s soul to know that he is inherently evil. This film has great writing, good characterization, and a formidable plot, but be sure it is very deserving of its R-rating.