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ISSUE 116 VOL 5 PUBLISHED 10/11/2002

“Red Dragon” succeeds at the box office, maintaining an intense plot

By Byron Vierk
Staff Writer

Friday, October 11, 2002

One of the most truly terrifying novels in literature returns to the screen in “Red Dragon” Director Brett Ratner’s prequel to “The Silence of the Lambs.” With stirring performances by Edward Norton (“Fight Club”) Anthony Hopkins (“Silence of the Lambs”) and Ralph Fiennes (“The English Patient”), “Red Dragon” breathes horrifying dramatic fire. From the moment of the first camera flash to the last fade out, Ratner’s cinematography grabs the audience and never lets go. Danny Elfman’s unmistakable touch is the simply chilling score that makes every drop of blood seem to fall with lifelike horror. The film comes together on almost every level. To say that “Red Dragon” is a worthy predecessor to “The Silence of the Lambs” is a gross understatement. The film takes place immediately before the events in “The Silence of the Lambs” and revolves around the tortured genius of Agent William Graham (Norton), who is the “super cop” that finally nabbed Hannibal “the Cannibal” Lecter (Hopkins). When asked by Lecter’s psychiatrist how he managed to capture Lecter, Graham coldly responds, “I let him kill me.” Graham is nearly killed in apprehending Lecter, and his fear and awe of him is omnipresent throughout the movie.

Lecter is brought in to help apprehend a killer who, because of his odd teeth, is known to the FBI as “The Tooth Fairy.” Of course, the “Tooth Fairy” is really The Red Dragon (Fiennes), who is as tortured a soul as Graham. The most interesting element of “Red Dragon” is the humanity assigned to Fiennes’s character. If ever it was possible to sympathize with a lunatic, Ratner has created the picture. The Red Dragon is quite the killer. Using broken pieces of mirror to slaughter his victims with chilling efficiency, Graham immediately realizes that this killer is a formulaic savant, a man unable and unwilling to halt his rampage. When Graham points out that the Red Dragon will never stop killing, a young woman asks why. Graham looks her in the eye and says, “Because it makes him God. Would you give that up?” The film gruesomely earns its ‘R’ rating, but no violence in “Red Dragon” is in any way gratuitous or unnecessary. There are no Hannibal-esque brain eating scenes here, but there are enough moments throughout “Red Dragon” to scare even the most jaded horror buff. Where “Red Dragon” really succeeds is not in its horror, but in its superb acting and excellent timing. The film never lets up and moments that in any other film would seem lagging are a welcome rest to allow the heart rate to return to normal. “Red Dragon” is a film for any fan of “The Silence of the Lambs” or for any fan of the actors of this worthy prequel. The plot is too good to give away in a review; as Dr. Lecter says to a dinner guest at his table inquiring as to the type of meal she was eating, “If I told you what it was, you wouldnt even try it.” “Red Dragon” opened to the public on Oct. 4. During its opening weekend, “Red Dragon” was the number one seller at the U.S. box office, knocking Reese Witherspoon’s “Sweet Home Alabama” into second place. It has already brought in $37.5 million, a record for October box office releases. This number, although so far only of “Hannibal”’s $58 million first weekend earnings, is expected to double or triple in its second weekend in the theaters.

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