Bringing back the FAVA BEANS

Supposedly, the effects wizards at Universal Pictures spent millions on making Anthony Hopkins look younger. But while the plotline of Red Dragon takes place before Silence of the Lambs, he still looks pretty old.

Or, perhaps it’s remarkable that he’s never seemed so familiar.

That’s really the whole point of Red Dragon, a near replica of Michael Mann’s 1986 thriller Manhunter. Though in that film – the original visual representation of Thomas Harris’ introductory novel to Hannibal Lector – the cannibalistic psychiatrist (played then by Brian Cox) only pops up to support the FBI agent on the case. Red Dragon, however, allows Hopkins to elevate his Hannibal to heights not even realized by Harris.

No, it’s not the Ed Norton show, in the same regard that Manhunter was basically a star vehicle for William Peterson, as FBI agent Will Graham. Rather, scenes were written with the explicit intent to give Hopkins more screen time than he even had in Lambs. And after seeing him back at being bad, audiences will be begging for more.

For those unfamiliar with the origin of how Lector first entered our subconscious, the plot is not the “most terrifying chapter in the trilogy,” as billed in the film’s advertisements. But this rendition may still be worth seeing for the cast alone.

Will Graham (Norton) is the retired agent who put Hannibal (Hopkins) away for nine life sentences. However, when a new wacko (Ralph Fiennes) comes along and begins killing people, Will is asked by Jack Crawford (Harvey Keitel) to help out with the investigation.

You see, Will has the power to induce a mental state that allows him to think as psychopaths do.

This isn’t good news for his wife (Mary-Louise Parker) who wants him to stop solving crimes and start enjoying the high times. But when a tabloid reporter (Philip Seymour Hoffman) splashes Will’s face across the front page of the newspaper, the killer – whose current target is a blind female co-worker (Emily Watson) – sets his sights elsewhere.

Composer Danny Elfman’s haunting and hurried score places each suspenseful moment in perspective for the audience. But when director Brett Ratner (Rush Hour) zooms in on Norton’s face as his character cracks a piece of the puzzle, coupled with Elfman’s heavy chords, the effect comes across as cheesy.

Fortunately, the setting is not as dated as in Manhunter. And while each actor’s beefed-up scenes and dialogue were added to justify such a high-caliber cast in an otherwise standard suspense story, at least it helps for balance.

But fans of Hopkins in this “role of a lifetime” will be thrilled to see he’s making the most of it. And it’s not a total remake when you consider a new flashback sequence at the beginning where the audience sees Hannibal entertaining guests as a free member of society, as well as a confrontation scene that lays the foundation of his relationship with Will.

We see more of Hopkins’ Hannibal in his own element – before the confines of that drab cell – and that alone will please most fans. And if you thought the Oscar-winning actor reveled in getting the chance to do Hannibal two years ago, he shows here that he isn’t ready to stop.

Contact Will Albritton at