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September 02

A film review by ALEX GRANT

RED DRAGON never captures the sweep and scale of Harris’novel

The craft of the casting agent has yet to receive its due from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.
There is still no Oscar to be won for the work entailed in fitting the
actor to the role. It can be a crucial element in the success of a film
- finding the right face and figure for each role.

RED DRAGON, already filmed in 1986 as MANHUNTER by Michael Mann, is adapted from the first Dr.Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter novel by Thomas Harris.

The first filmisation proved to be a mesmerizing forensic melodrama the prelude to THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS [ 1990]. Brett Ratner’s remake flounders due to its every major role being horribly miscast.
As seasoned empathetic FBI Special Agent ‘Will Graham’ actor Edward Norton is a baby-faced lightweight devoid of gravity.
As demented recluse and psychotic ‘Francis Dolarhyde’ Ralph Fiennes is far too Anglo-Saxon and wavers loonily between macho body-builder and wimpy Mama’s Boy.
As Will’s saturnine and wily FBI boss Harvey Keitel is too familiar a face and too mannered to play a dull, obstinate bureaucrat of the first rank.
As Francis’ blind co-worker at the Chromolux photo lab Emily Watson is much too the cutie-pie innocent and Barbie Doll. AND as the anthropophagous psychiatrist Lecter Sir Anthony Hopkins as much too long in the tooth, supposedly 22 years ago a mad murderer in his prime….Hopkins looks every year of his 65 years and is far too raddled,creased, and careworn. BUT without Hopkins consenting to essay the effete epicure for a third time MANHUNTER would never have been remade at all.

If only ! We could have retained our good, apposite memories of William C. Petersen, Tom Noonan, Dennis Farina, Joan Allen, and Brian Cox each one superb in the respective roles listed above.

Solely the unctuous, clammy asylum superintendent ‘Dr.Chilton’ [Anthony Heald] is fast-forwarded from THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and even he slices the meaty ham with a clumsy cleaver.
Simply put, MANHUNTER need never have been resaddled and trotted out again. The Michael Mann film is a pastel-hued truly portentous time-capsule of good breeding from an era when the serial killer was a new sociosexual phenomenon. Two decades later he is passé.

RED DRAGON never captures the sweep and scale of Harris’novel nor the subtle suspense of the Michael Mann version. It is a purely perfunctory "product" off the assembly -line owing much to Alfred Hitchcock’s masterly PSYCHO and the ultimate Mama’s Boy ‘Norman Bates’. The image of The Bates Motel, Harris’ creation Francis Dolarhyde, deserves a far better personification than Ralph Fiennes ‘ slumming as a tattooed musclebound misfit gone berserker. One can only hope and pray that Ralph has no longer mislaid his acting chops in David Cronenberg’s SPIDER.

© Alex Grant October 2002

Michael Mann’s RHD [Robbery Homicide Division]

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