Echh! Fava beans again?
The latest Hannibal Lecter installment suffers from an action-oriented director
What’s wrong with this picture—Michael Mann, Jonathan Demme, Ridley Scott, and Brett Ratner? Let’s see, three are directors and one is a mechanic, but all four have taken on the dreaded Hannibal Lecter. Or, in this case, the dreadful Hannibal. Ooh boy, this one should be called Red Drag On and On. But then what would you expect from a director whose resume makes him sound like Chris Tucker’s personal punk?
As a director of action/comedy, Brett Ratner has no feel for dramatic structure, making the expositional dialogue-fueled moments feel awkward and forced. His idea of building suspense is cheap jolts, such as cueing shrieking violins upon the revelation of a blood-soaked bedroom. To give him his due, the action bits are competent.
On the other hand, Red Dragon is a relatively bloodless affair (in more than one sense of the word). A de facto prequel to The Silence of the Lambs (despite the lack of continuity implied in the now baggy-faced, gray-haired, severely balding Hopkins playing Lecter years before he meets up with Clarice). Plot-wise, it’s the same ol’ shtick: FBI agent turns to the imprisoned Lecter for advice on how to nail the latest sicko. The use of blood here stands as a good metaphor for the movie itself. Only twice is it liberally applied: in a week-old crime scene—caked, desiccated gore representing a series cruising on the dubious gruesomeness of entries past—and in the last act (ahem, SPOILER: SKIP TO END OF PARAGRAPH) where a faked suicide stands in for misdirection in more than one sense.
Unfortunately, it seems that his A-list actors are subtly dissing him and hack-producer Dino de Laurentis (who probably hired on Ratner so as to maintain complete control over the project, with no lip from the director). At every turn, the actors appear to be pretending to be other actors: Harvey Keitel does De Niro, Fiennes does Liam Neeson (with a touch of Tony Perkins), and Philip Seymour Hoffman does Joe Don Baker (sorry, a bit before a lot of your times). Norton comes across like a dyspeptic Dana Carvey to me, and also, Ed … bad hairpiece.
Now, on to Sir Tony Hopkins. Obviously sick of the Hannibal schtick, he practically minces through the role, at one point coyly drawling his lines Blanche DuBois-style, as if about to say, “I always rely on the kidneys of strangers. …”
Bored of the character, he seems to have moved on to self-parody to keep himself entertained. The mere fact that I was thinking all this as I watched the movie pretty much shows how compelling the whole deal was.