Sunday, July 11, 2010

Joie' De Vivre On Celluloid: Red Dragon

I'm sure once the B.O. receipts from Hannibal poured into the offices of Dino De Laurentiis and his wife, they decided to "Milk the cow" as Linda Hamilton has said before. I didn't like this as much as I did Hannibal and I'm gonna get that out of the way.

There is very little production history on this film, though I am curious as to how it could be farted out in such a timely manner and still be quite good. (Is this really a Ratner film?) Maybe because of the source material is already at the disposal of them.

I will say this: too bad about the critical and commercial bomb, After Sunset (his follow up to this). Because this one here got Ratner a lot of the right attention. And then he ruined all the good rapport with the audience and critics alike. "Feign surprise!" as Liz Lemon would comment. Easily his best film to date in front of the original Rush Hour.  Hell, even my damn mom thinks Rush Hour is raw son.

But wait! There's more!

Although Ratner makes a competent I feel as a viewer that I don't agree exactly with this particular cow being drawn on for another bottle of milk. But that's Tinseltown for ya. There's a theory circling around that 2010's audiences are being harder to please and that Hollywood needs to cut the crap with the reboots, remakes, and the years-afterwords sequels. Analysts are calling for original material to manufactured in hopes of of boosted box office draw and better reception for films made today. I happen to agree with that, because every summer for the last two has been worse and worse. And now it's starting to trickle down to just about every other season as well. Oscar season is always the lowest money maker of the year but... Idk, i digress (yet a-fucking-gain) and that's not what I'm here for right now. Maybe a opted piece later on for that topic of discussion?

In this installment we get not one villain, but 1 1/2. Hannibal providing the 1/2, Fiennes giving us the rest of a positively exceptional performance. (Ralphy-boy doesn't know how to do anything else) In this one the walking horror and misunderstood boy Lectar calls him, is Francis Dolarhyde. The villain with the host body of Fiennes is many things in this film, as Ralph genuinely steps outside himself to give the whole film reason to breathe in my opinion. Dolarhyde is quiet and retained. Dolarhyde is loving and thoughtful, then tragic and plagued to a nearly empathizable degree, and he maybe just lonely. We see that confirmed in this film as time rolls on. A villain crafted I came to really appreciate by the truly wonderful English gift to the 7th art (acting) by Ralph Fiennes.

The first time we Francis "The Tooth Fairy" Dolarhyde, he's grunting slurs of anger at his long gone grandmother, wearing a dirty leg stocking, and benching 255 lbs. Let me reiterate how serious that is for you guys. I like to stay in shape, and I used to be a serious gym-rat. 255 pounds is no small feat for someone, grown man or not, you need to work to get there. Work son. Put shortly, years of psychological abuse from various members in his family, notably his grandmother, have twisted his psyche into a demonic alternate personality "The Great Red Dragon" based off the William Blake painting. But on his way to "becoming and changing" he meets Rita McLane (Watson). Rita is blind, and blond, and short and adorable. Watson gives her dry wit and something else inside her aching for nourishment. I loved that angle. Rita also has control over... Francis. With her enter-stage-right appearance, he starts to question the motives of "The Dragon." Watson showed me what she can do at her finest with films like Punch Drunk Love (also with Hoffman) and The Boxer. Sympathetic characters with large hearts, big eyes and cutesy manners is what she does best, but make no mistake, she can do bitch very well indeed.

So in this dragon, it uses him to slaughter the entire families. Though at first, we do not know why. Two down and more to go, Jack Crawford (Keitel) turns to ex-ace profiler Will Graham. Graham has the ability not only to profile very well indeed, but actually explore the mind of his perpetrators by, empathizing with them. He is truly horrified by this gift, thinking like them, and seeing their side of the struggle. The fact the saves lives is the only thing keepin' him in the game son. He is an ex-agent because he was the man who caught Lectar, but so did he--in the stomach with a knife. Tormented by the incident, he retires with a hefty sum from Uncle Sam and moves to Florida with his sassy and humor provider wife (Louise-Parker) and young boy. (Was there any place to retire in the 80's?) Though, Graham eventually realizes he cannot crack the case without the help of the great doctor. And there's your plot: Graham working with Lectar and Crawford to catch "The Tooth Fairy." 

Remember what I said last time with Hannibal ? Lectar was free to roam the epicenter of the Renaissance: the beautiful, grand and lively Florence, Italy in Tuscany. Ridley was wise to shoot there. But now, he snaps back from his clam that we noticed in the beginning with his dinner guests. He starts to get anxious again, with eyes that don't quietly disseminate anymore, they pierce into your psyche and ripe out your inner most... Welp anything he wants really. I really love that distinction Hopkins can make for him. Most even miss it. But Will Graham goes toe-to-toe with Lectar on this exchange of quips. This is arguably the first time we see doctor Lectar being, upstaged by someone else. And who better to show us that then the brilliant Mr. Norton? Anyone? Anyone? Yes, that's right. He's the champion of the movie for that. What else can we say? Edward is always so great at being a problem-solver for an audience, all the while anteing-up the suspense, almost by accident. Here is no exception. He's a great man to have on your side playing... anything really. But he uses his characters with a sense of duty and authority very well. He can use very dry wit, and then snap back to calm force in his voice you dare not betray. 

Keitel gives weight and credibility to Crawford as a guidance tool for Graham. Nicely done. I loved the fact that even though it's painfully obvious how Dolarhyde's choosing the families, they keep that a "secret" until the last half of the last act. Ratner displayed that he took this job pretty seriously, and I found myself appreciative of his work. Well done, son. Though it still escapes me to this day why they figured he was a good choice to make. It's usually because a lot of the first few people pass on risky or over-done topics like this that we get lower-tier choices. And like this one, every now and then they turn in a fine piece of work. Although I coulda did without, albeit a wonderfully talented composer, Danny Elfman churning in my ear every five seconds. SOTL show'd us how actual silence can creep you the fuck out. Anyway. In his review for Rocknrolla, Ebert said (in a paraphrase), "It never slows down enough to be really good..." I'll apply that here if i may. Short of the Lectar scenes we get, while a splendid to-n-fro between him and Graham, it didn't quite crawl the way I wished it did. But be that as it may, this is still a well deserving solid 3.

Munki out.

No comments:

Post a Comment