One of the popular shows currently on television is "Hannibal," no doubt inspired by the success of several films that have featured the notorious escapades of the brilliant, but disturbed Dr. Hannibal Lector. In most of these movies, the psychologist/cannibal was played by Anthony Hopkins, who won an Oscar for playing him in "The Silence of the Lambs." Hopkins also played Dr. Lector in "Red Dragon," a prequel, which was released in 2002.
"Red Dragon" begins with Dr. Lector's original apprehension by Will Graham (played by Edward Norton), a smart young FBI agent. Barely surviving the torturous physical battle to overcome Lector and place him under arrest, Graham shifts his occupational focus. Several years later, Graham has retired from the FBI, while Lector is incarcerated. Graham, who now lives with his wife and son, is asked by his former boss, Jack Crawford (played by Harvey Keitel), to assist in investigating a series of murders by Francis Dolarhyde, AKA the "Tooth Fairy" (played by Ralph Fiennes). The former agent is reluctant at first, but ultimately does agree to help and as he investigates, he finds he will need Dr. Lector's assistance.
The acting roster for "Red Dragon" is an A list one. Edward Norton is excellent. He shows that his character is very smart and very tough. Anthony Hopkins is, as always, great as the unabashedly demonic Hannibal Lector. He is thoroughly charming, yet sinister to the bone. Ralph Fiennes is also great as Francis. The difficult childhood traumas he experienced offer the viewer some perspective regarding his abhorrent behavior. Another memorable performance is by Emily Watson, who plays Reba, a blind woman he falls for. When he is with her, his more compassionate impulses surface, and his urge to kill diminishes.
"Red Dragon" is a great choice for fans of serial killer films. Behind "The Silence of the Lambs," it is the best film of the franchise as it is suspenseful and well-acted.