Starring: Edward Norton, Anthony Hopkins, Ralph Fiennes
Director: Brett Ratner
Running Time: 124 mins
Red Dragon is an American film and the prequel to The Silence Of The Lambs. Having landed the brilliant Dr. Hannibal Lecter in jail, FBI investigator Will Graham finds himself needing the evil genius’ help to track down a vicious serial killer on the loose.
First things first, it’s impossible to top The Silence Of The Lambs. No matter which way you try, there’s just something about that movie which has the perfect mix of gripping crime drama and mind-bending thrills that no other adaptation has ever come close to.
Red Dragon, for the most part, tries to follow the successes of The Silence Of The Lambs as closely as possible, in many ways feeling like a very similar film from start to finish. As a crime thriller, it’s not half-bad, with captivating thrills that, though not quite as intense as the film it serves as a prequel to, make for an entertaining watch.
However, the big difference between Red Dragon and The Silence Of The Lambs is that this prequel is by no means as cerebral as the Oscar-winner. Yes, it has a couple of exciting twists, but there’s never a point where the movie pulls you into the details of its investigation to the same extent, unfolding rather too easily as it aims to shadow the same story structure as closely as possible.
As a result, much of the tension that made parts of The Silence Of The Lambs so terrifying – especially the last act – just doesn’t hit home in Red Dragon. The main villain, played by Ralph Fiennes, is good, but he’s never anywhere near as disturbing as Ted Levine’s Buffalo Bill.
Meanwhile, Anthony Hopkins doesn’t have quite as much to do in this film, even though he seems to occupy more screen time than in The Silence Of The Lambs. The overarching lack of tension and slightly more simple screenplay plays a big part in this, as you never feel so devastatingly intimated by Hannibal Lecter’s evil genius.
The biggest difference, however, is in the lead. Edward Norton is a fantastic actor, but he’s nowhere near on the level of Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling in this film. Foster had a blend of tough-as-nails determination and riveting vulnerability that made her pursuit of Buffalo Bill and her dealings with Hannibal Lecter mouth-watering and nail-biting prospects, but Norton just can’t pull that off in the same way.
His character, Will Graham, certainly isn’t as interesting or complex as Starling, with the screenplay often leaning too heavily on his supposedly brilliant criminology expertise over Starling’s often flawed but never-say-die approach to investigation.
As a result, Red Dragon just isn’t ever as exciting, enthralling, mind-bending or scary as The Silence Of The Lambs, and, given that it’s so similar to the film it serves as a prequel to, you would certainly be better off giving the all-time classic another watch.
That said, this is still an entertaining thriller. It doesn’t add much to the characters and world that you already know, though it does have some striking moments complete with some interesting drama. On the whole, Red Dragon is a decent, albeit generally flawed movie that provides some decent excitement, and that’s why I’m giving it a 7.3 overall.