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Movie Review: Hopkins keeps Lecter insanity in ‘Dragon’

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by Tim Tevault
Editorial Director

Anthony Hopkins and Jodie Foster in 1991: excellent. Anthony Hopkins and Julianne Moore in 2001: good, but nothing spectacular. Anthony Hopkins and Edward Norton in 2002: awesome.

Everything has come full circle in the past eleven years for Hannibal Lecter and friends in the third part of a mesmerizing trilogy.

“Red Dragon,” the latest chapter following Lecter and his gruesome cravings contains a little bit of the jumpiness in “Hannibal” and a whole lot of the psychological stirrings in “Silence of the Lambs.”

Despite the mixed reviews “Dragon” is receiving from some critics, the movie has an amazing way of capturing the attention of the audience for the full two hours.

From the first scene to the final cut, the prequel is able to stay suspenseful. Cutting back on the laughs and campiness of its predecessor “Hannibal” is a welcome, yet disturbing, change that brings back the frightening and terrifying mystique of “Lambs.”

Causing all of the edginess is Hopkins, who once again becomes one of the most disturbing villains this century. Watching him all over again reminds us why he got the Oscar for this role a decade ago.

Joining Hopkins in the tradition of “Lambs” is Ralph Fiennes as Francis Dolarhyde, the villain Lecter is helping to catch.

Joining the ranks of Foster and Moore as Special Agent Clarice Starling is Norton as Will Graham, the detective who put Lecter in that infamous cell in the first place. The story, which takes place before “Lambs,” is easy to follow.

Upon catching Lecter, Graham retires, but a few years later he is called back to help catch Dolarhyde, who has broke into two family’s homes and murdered them, all in a grotesque fashion. Fortunately for the sake of the audience, the director – Brett Ratner of “Rush Hour” – does not believe in showing every single detail of the gruesome obsessions of the killer. Thankfully this works for the overall feel of the movie, which goes to show that showcasing everything does not make a movie more scary.

Graham is later coaxed by the FBI’s Jack Crawford (Harvey Keitel) into last-resort Lecter, who could possibly help out in tracking down the mysterious murderer. Watching Norton walk down the hall to Lecter’s glass cage is very synonymous to Foster’s stroll down the “hall o’ loons.”

Rounding out the all-star cast is Emily Watson, Dolarhyde’s blind lover. Watching great actors such as these-Hopkins an Oscar winner and Norton, Fiennes, Watson and Keitel all Oscar nominees interact-is like watching a pro football team effortlessly shut out its hometown rival.

Unfortunately, because Hopkins plays the Lecter character so easily, he may get overlooked for an Oscar. However, Norton’s cool and confident Graham and Fiennes’ frightful portrayal of a possessed serial killer may garner them some type of nominations, whether it be Golden Globe or Oscar. Even Watson, who plays a small but pivotal role in the movie, could get a supporting actress nod.

And judging from the movie’s impressive $37.5 million opening at the box office last weekend, we could be seeing more of everyone’s favorite cannibal.

While this opening is big, whether the movie stays at the top after this weekend-its second in release-will determine the movie’s longevity. In recent years at the box office-particularly in the summer-a movie’s opening weekend can not be the sole determining factor in how it will do overall.

Money aside, upon first glance, “Red Dragon” appears to be a high caliber sequel-good actors with no plot.

But upon leaving the theater, one will see that “Dragon” ain’t no “Hannibal.”

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