You can’t have too much of a bad thing, as a film with a cannibal for its lead character aptly proves. It’s probably not the premise alone that keeps pulling you back for more, but the enigma of an icon who has successfully become the single most celebrated personality in American filmdom.
Hannibal has been resurrected, after making two rounds on the film circuit. This time around, the plot precedes the events of the earlier two, "Red Dragon" actually being a remake of the 1986 film "Maneater", adapted from Thomas Harris’ novel of the same name.
FBI detective Will Graham (Edward Norton) confirmed his unique aptitude for collaring psychopaths by reasoning like them, when he confined notorious cannibal Lector (Anthony Hopkins) to the detention cell. Having barely escaped with his liver intact, Graham now leads an uneventful life with his wife and son in Florida. Until former boss Jack Crawford (Harvey Keitel) requests his assistance in a new series of murder that hint at a set of human dentures in action.
Nicknamed the "tooth fairy", this fresh criminal leaves tooth marks on his victims, along with a chain of gouged eyeballs and cracked mirrors. Graham reluctantly woos Lector for counseling on the subject, but Lector himself has begun to play mind games that don’t completely stay away from jeopardizing Graham’s family’s safety.
The "tooth fairy", on the other hand, is a deranged young man, Francis Dolarhyde (Ralph Fiennes), who believes he is the physical reincarnation of William Blake’s "Red Dragon". Graham must identify the murderer and save his next victim, before the Red Dragon picks his next meal.
This film explains succinctly the current mood of filmmaking, where the garish provocation of "Silence Of The Lambs" and the stylized frisson of "Hannibal" determine the more rounded body of "Red Dragon". There is little here that can frazzle the nerves, but the performances, from the indomitable Hopkins to an unnerving Fiennes and a guarded Norton, are a panoply of A-grade acting.This article was first published on 12 Dec 2002.