Ex-FBI agent Will Graham is an expert investigator who quit the Bureau after almost losing his life in the process of capturing the elusive Dr. Lecter. Years later, after a series of particularly grisly murders, Graham reluctantly agrees to come out of retirement and assist in the case. But he soon realizes that the best way to catch this killer, known as the Tooth Fairy, is to find a way to get inside the killer's mind. And the closest thing to that would be to probe the mind of another killer who is equally brilliant and equally twisted. For Graham, that means confronting his past and facing his former nemesis, the now-incarcerated Lecter.
In "Dragon," Hannibal (the Cannibal) Lecter is played once again with relish — and probably wasabi mayonnaise — by Anthony Hopkins. But Lecter is such a huge presence at this point that he capsizes the picture's narrative, which is presumably a manhunt for a serial murderer other than Lecter. Lecter is in prison, but a killer is attacking families in their homes on a lunar cycle. The F.B.I. asks Will Graham (Edward Norton), a now retired agent, to help find him before the next full moon. So Graham asks Lecter for help. The best material in the picture is sparkling, drawing-room comedy, like the exchanges between Graham and Lecter. And there are gamey comic moments featuring Philip Seymour Hoffman as the tabloid reporter Freddy Lounds. But while Mr. Hopkins excels at Grand Guignol comic relief, it's tiresome because we've heard it all before. The entire picture is a third-generation Xerox copy: it's a thriller too timid to thrill. — Elvis Mitchell
2002-10-04 | Elvis Mitchell | Read the New York Times Review of Red Dragon