Saturday, April 4, 2009

Film Review: RED DRAGON (2002, Brett Ratner)

Stars: 1 of 5.
Running Time: 124 minutes.
Notable Cast or Crew: Anthony Hopkins, Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, Emily Watson, Mary-Louise Parker, Philip Seymour Hoffmann, Anthony Heald, Ken Leung, Anthony Heald, Ralph Fiennes, Lalo Schifrin, Mary Beth Hurt, Ellen Burstyn, Danny Elfman.
Tag-lines: "Before the Silence, there was the Dragon." AND "To understand the origin of evil, you must go back to the beginning." AND "Meet Hannibal Lecter For The First Time."
Best one-liner: "There's nothing wrong with you... except your hair. Your hair is a train wreck." (Also note that this quote in no way pertains to the actual bad hair at hand described in notation #4.)

My mind is blown. This got fairly solid notices- glowing raves from the Washington Post, Variety, Time, and Film Threat? Ebert loved this?! Gone is the class, restraint, and artfulness of Mann's original masterpiece, MANHUNTER.

Here's ten reasons why RED DRAGON is one of the most embarrassing movies of the decade:

#1. Keitel. If Keitel is phonin' it in, you've got problems. He didn't even phone it in for MONKEY TROUBLE.

The barometer for this is Keitel nudity. There's a scene where Keitel’s asleep. The Keitel I know and love would have, at the very least, been shirtless. A committed Keitel would have been doing full frontal. The fact that he didn't give a shit when even Ralph Fiennes is getting some naked screen time speaks VOLUMES. His eyes are telling me,"I'm only on set for 5 days, thank God." This sets the tone for everyone phoning it in, even the sprightly Emily Watson.

#2. Clumsy exposition. We start right off with a Lifetime movie montage of clippings and carefully designed "psycho" scrap-booking.

Yep, they just watched SE7EN. Also, aural flashbacks involving an old lady whispering and white flashes are really corny, even when that old lady is Ellen Burstyn.

#3. Later, when they're altering the ending (!), they steal a cue from Argento's OPERA. The ole 'wrong-body-got-shot-and-set-on-fire-switcheroo.' It's not exactly a good fit when your milquetoast American serious serial killer drama is hamfistedly stealing outrageously hilarious twists from Italians.

#4. Ed Norton's hair.

There's some kind of blonde highlights with roots showing going on that makes no sense for a normal human, much less an FBI agent. My sister exclaimed during the screening, "No man would do that to his hair unless he was gay, and then it would look better. A gay man in denial might do that."

#5.The dungeon prison cell.

I understand you're trying to make the space that Hannibal inhabits be 'epically scary.' But when the rest of your film is attempting realism, to have a super-stylized, over-the-top gothic castle dungeon lair (immaculately adorned with shafts of natural light) as Lector's cell is redunkulous. MANHUNTER managed to be creepier with a sterile, standard, realistic space.

#6. Criminal misuse of Danny Elfman. Here, he's just a puppet for their gauche, graceless "scare stingers."

#7. And what happened to Frank Whaley?!

#8. Fiennes, though by no fault of his own.

You don't have your disfigured, self-loathing serial killer played by one of the most attractive people on the planet. That's not how it's done. Ask Tom Noonan how it’s done.

#9. This tableau:

Chekhov sez: if a tableau such as this appears in the first act; Mary-Louise Parker must save Ed Norton by remembering her target practice and shooting the killer in the last act. Actually, I could probably discard all of my talking points and just present this freeze-frame as evidence of this film's lame-itude.

#10. Stop TELLING me about the characters and start SHOWING me. What Mann conveys in a simple shot, Ratner TELLS through an awkward exchange of unnatural dialogue. And the tacked-on SILENCE OF THE LAMBS-segue ending is as laughably harebrained as Anakin building C-3PO. One star.

Side note: The silver lining in all this is Anthony Heald, who realizes how dumb this movie is and manages to at least have fun with it.

He's like Nick Nolte combined with John Glover as directed by Douglas Sirk, and that is amazing.

-Sean Gill

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

no wonder there's no comment.....