By Marc S. Sanders

So this may be director Brett Ratner’s best film, but that doesn’t make it a great film. Ratner directs Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lechter in this prequel film to The Silence of The Lambs.

Hopkins does his best with a script that lacks the wit of the original Lambs script. The puns are lacking this time as he plays mind games with Edward Norton’s FBI agent who is trying to apprehend “The Tooth Fairy,” a deranged killer of families played by a disturbing Ralph Fiennes.

Red Dragon boasts a who’s who of a great cast; Hopkins, Norton, Fiennes, Harvey Keitel, Emily Blunt, Mary Louise Parker and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Yet, every player is incredibly boring. It’s as if they memorized their lines and just recited them at the call of action. There are no nuances. No fear or fascination within their interactions, and thus what’s at stake seems awfully minimal. We get a LOT of Norton just talking to himself or a tape recorder. It’s all very flat.

Ratner’s art director should be commended for effectively duplicating Hannibal’s prison from Lambs. That’s where the eye-popping stops, however. Hannibal’s infamous muzzle mask also makes a return.

I remember loving this book by Thomas Harris. It was so imaginative and descriptive. Very fast reading. Ratner gets all the important scenes in his film as well as some additional fodder for Hopkins but it’s all color by numbers. Nothing is here to carry a swell of emotion. No close ups. No lighting technique.

The best that Ratner comes up with is to chain Hannibal to a steel cable like a wild animal. He lunges for Norton and the chain rattles. Meh. A cat jumping out of nowhere has given me worse nightmares. Ratner forgot to cast the cat, however.

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