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  Film Reviews: Can’t We Just Kill To Kill Anymore? Red Dragon  

Sunday, December 29
Can’t We Just Kill To Kill Anymore? Red Dragon
I was torn on the title for this, as it could have easily been “adventures at the dollar theater,” but that wouldn’t have necessarily been about the movie. See, I had done quite a bit of Christmas shopping and was feeling the need to be thrifty about something, so husband and I went to the dollar movies. For the uninitiated, this is the way to see a movie for as little as 50 cents (Tuesday nights), or a whopping $1.50 at the peak movie-going times. Here, you can see films that have lived their first-run lives. The sound isn’t as good, the seating isn’t as comfortable, and the floors are sticky. It’s like going to the movies in the mid-80s.

Red Dragon is the third installment in the Hannibal Lecter films. The first one, “Silence of the Lambs,” won a boatload of Oscars and brought one of the scariest bad men to film. If you doubt me, go and rent that and tell me you weren’t equally drawn to and repulsed by Dr. Lecter – all of that charm and intelligence with a side of cannibalism? Well, film number two was, smartly, a sequel simply called “Hannibal” set after “Silence of the Lambs.” I’ve been assured numerous times by husband that the book was much better than the movie, but “Hannibal” depended too heavily on gore to shock and scare. Still, we liked watching Lecter tick.

Well, where to go after Hannibal? I mean, wouldn’t you logically decide to do a prequel, set ten years before “Silence of the Lambs” and still use Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal? Okay, some of you are probably thinking, “I would get a younger actor to play Hannibal, since having someone play themselves as twenty-years younger during an entire film would be stupid.” Apparently, none of you have seen those Grecian Formula for Men commercials…after all, you’d be amazed at how simply dying Sir Anthony Hopkins hair brown AND having him grow a ponytail would make him look, uh, younger.

Ah, but the movie is called “Red Dragon” – it’s not really about Dr. Lecter. At least this is what husband assured me when we went to see the movie. You see, Thomas Harris wrote this book about the Red Dragon killer and this minor character, Dr. Lecter, shows up to offer our FBI agent some help. It was only in later books that Thomas Harris made Lecter a full character. Luckily, those Hollywood writers know when a novelist is wrong.

So, here we are, watching Dr. Lecter help a young, troubled ex-FBI agent with a talent for profiling (he can see inside the killer’s minds like no one else) track down a killer that specializes in doing the whole family. The FBI calls this killer “The Tooth Fairy,” a nickname the killer despises, as he’s really “The Red Dragon.” I seem to remember this same anger from “Buffalo Bill,” in “Silence of the Lambs,” but who am I to point out something a tad bit overused?

Really, I am already having problems with this movie. Much as I like Ed Norton, how many of these young, troubled FBI agents are there? I mean, don’t they do some sort of psych screening to avoid these exact problems? I mean, sure, you might be the best profiler ever, but if you’re so unstable as to need a prolific sociopath cannibal to help you along the way – well, we can find someone else to do your job almost as well.

This question is a good bridge to problem number two. Just how many serial killers are concerned with their nicknames? After all, this is the scrub-FBI nicknaming you…it’s not like everyone that works there is exactly stable. Also, do we not have spree killers anymore? This movie was making me long for the anti-heroes of “Natural Born Killers.” At least Mickey and Mallory killed for no good reason. They still became celebrities for their actions – no full-body tattoos, domineering mothers or facial disfigurements required.

Husband assures me that the original book and TV miniseries did a much better job explaining why the Red Dragon had become what he was. Husband assures me that I would not have been so annoyed with everything in either the book or that movie (which is called “Manhunter,” for those looking for something to rent at Blockbuster this weekend).

To top it all off, Sir Anthony Hopkins does an incredible disservice to Hannibal Lecter. The character that was once enough to scare anyone with a simple sneer has now become the “Saturday Night Live” version of himself. Now, the director, Brett Ratner, has directed both Mariah Carey and Madonna in videos – along with both of the Rush Hour movies. Perhaps “over the top,” is the only direction that Brett ever learned. Still, this is not an excuse. As humans, we are all expected to learn as we live life – it is time for Brett to learn restraint. It’s either learn or discover that his directing talents will best be applied to new-hire training videos for sub-par companies.

The Usual:

What it’s Worth: Don’t worry, this will make the HBO mult-view.

Annoying Theater Goer: The woman that thought she was so clever when she’d figured out the “plot twist” at the end. Her glee in exclaiming the obvious was even more annoying than the plot twist itself. Hint to the uninitiated – whenever you see a montage that includes the FBI agents taking down their crime board, the girl-in-peril getting better and the ex-FBI agent having a quiet moment at home – THE MOVIE IS NOT OVER.

Main Reason To See This Film: Emily Watson. She’s a bright spot in this film as a blind woman that has a few humanizing moments with the Red Dragon.

Main Reason Not To See This Film: This is really a rule for all films of this type, but when an aging star agrees to do a prequel instead of stepping aside for a younger actor, you should know better than to think it will be good.

MPAA Rating: R

Nudity: Yes

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