Red Dragon

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Edward Norton and Ralph Fiennes
Universal Pictures Video
RRP: £15.99
Certificate: 15

Ex-FBI profiler Will Graham is lured out of retirement to help catch a serial killer nicknamed "the Tooth Fairy". Graham soon realises that he will need advice from the brilliant but insane Dr Hannibal "the Cannibal" Lecter, a murderer who Graham himself brought to justice...

In case you didn't already know, Red Dragon, Thomas Harris' first Hannibal Lecter novel, has already been filmed - as Michael Mann's Manhunter. Still, it's nice to have a complete set of movies starring Anthony Hopkins as Dr Lecter.

The cannibal's role in the original book was the smallest of the three, but Brett Ratner and screenwriter Ted Tally have made optimum use of their star attraction. They have added a neat prologue, in which Will Graham (Edward Norton) captures Lecter, and a final scene that leads directly into The Silence of the Lambs. Hopkins, of course, appears noticeably older than he did in Lambs, but this is unavoidable (barring extensive computer enhancement). What certainly could have been avoided, though, are some of Hopkins' more camp moments of almost pantomime villainy, which are more akin to his portrayal in Hannibal than his quieter, more sinister playing in Lambs. For the most part, however, Dr Lecter is as chilling as he ever was.

As his antagonist and uneasy ally Will Graham, Edward Norton gives a well-judged performance, gaining our sympathies as an all-round decent guy who faces up to his darkest fears in order to do the right thing.

Manhunter's Tom Noonan was a hard act to follow in terms of terror, but Ralph Fiennes manages to bring new depths to the character of Francis Dolarhyde aka the Tooth Fairy. There are some very poignant moments with Dolarhyde struggling against his insanity when he benefits from the caring affections of blind woman Reba McClane (another excellent performance by Emily Watson). The lingering influence of Dolarhyde's deceased grandmother is, however, a bit too reminiscent of Norman Bates' mum!

Director Ratner has captured the grim tone, though perhaps not all of the style, of Jonathan Demme's seminal Silence of the Lambs. He vividly re-creates the staging of those famous "glass cage" confrontation scenes. As in many of the best horror flicks, most of the violence is kept off-screen and firmly in the viewer's imagination. The sequence in which Will Graham visits the bloodstained bedrooms of a crime scene is far more unnerving than an in-your-face depiction of the crime itself would have been.

This is a faithful adaptation and, despite the handicap of being both a prequel and a remake - both of which can defeat mystery and suspense - a dramatic piece of storytelling in its own right.

Richard McGinlay

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