Plot? It's based on a book so it can't gain much in the way of points: Lector (Hopkins) was captured by Agent Will Graham (Edward Norton), but only after nearly fatally injuring Graham and causing Graham to leave the FBI. Graham now must seek Lector's help in solving the murders caused by the mysterious Tooth Fairy killer (Ralph Fiennes). Lector weaves his mysterious web, and Tooth Fairy his mysterious ways. Can X stop Tooth Fairy and, can he stop himself being embroiled in the beguiling evil of Lector?
Let's take a look at the acting. Critics seem to be in two camps about Hopkins returning as Lector here - masterful or woeful. I'm leaning more towards the latter. While Hopkins has made the refined gentlemen insane killer his own. there's something lacking here. It's as if Hopkins isn't trying to reserve himself too much. There's almost a gleefully camp element to the manic psycho. Sure Lector is intense, but his intensity here is too much visibly in the fore and voice, rather than in the sharp glittering of the eyes that `Silence of the Lambs' gave us. Norton is as good as ever. He's never bad. He's able to perfectly give all the motions required and do them convincingly. Witness the talent he clearly has when he switches character roles, towards the end. It's not just a tone of voice - Norton has the ability to convert his whole body language subtlety (check him out in `The Score'). However, and I hate to be critical of Norton, I'm not sure this is the ideal role for him. It's a fault of his youthful look more than anything else - the part calls for a darker, older, more embittered character. Now Norton can play dark (`American History X') but he can't artificially add age to himself. It's a shame because otherwise he is as wonderful as ever.
Ralph Fiennes is unnerving as the Tooth Fairy. There's a wonderful insane quality in his performance, as if it's permanently itching under the skin even when he's being relatively normal and trying to pursue a romance (which is surprisingly touching). You cannot help but feel empathy for him. When he's in his Red Dragon persona (and utterly mad), he's also good - his voice rings with sincere conviction, supreme belief in himself that he cannot find elsewhere. Well done today Fiennes!
However Brett Ratner, directing here, doesn't let `Red Dragon' live. It's all a bit too clean, a bit too austere. In his original adaptation, Michael Mann realised the darkness inherent in the movie. `Red Dragon' is a bit too clean, a bit too refined. It needs more edge and grit. The pacing is somewhat weak and certain elements become frustrating - such as waiting for Graham to pick out the way the killer knows his victims, despite the audience having been told an hour previously. That's weak. The burning chair moment, and others, are never handed with enough `oomph'. Perhaps it's knowing how the original went that spoils any tension here, because I never felt that involved in the proceedings. Nothing innovative was used - it was all handled with competence that left me indifferent. Never a bad movie, `Red Dragon' never really became a good movie either. I had expected more but it never got delivered. 6.1/10.