Red Dragon (Rental) (2002)

If you create a user account, you can add your own review of this DVD

Rental Version Only
Available for Rent

Cover Art

This review is sponsored by

Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Thriller Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio
dts Trailer-Piano
Trailer-The Hulk
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 119:20
RSDL / Flipper RSDL Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Brett Ratner

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Anthony Hopkins
Edward Norton
Harvey Keitel
Ralph Fiennes
Emily Watson
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI Rental Music Danny Elfman

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English Titling
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Brett Ratner was on a bit of a hiding to nothing when he agreed to direct the latest film adaptation of a Thomas Harris novel featuring the insane psychiatrist Hannibal Lecter. The man responsible for the Rush Hour films and a few music videos was trying to emulate the success Jonathan Demme enjoyed with The Silence Of The Lambs in bringing to the big screen the chilling tale of a serial killer and a cannibal doctor. He could so easily fall victim to the sequel curse and make a film inferior to the original, much like Ridley Scott's effort with Hannibal. On the other hand, the chances of him making a film superior to The Silence Of The Lambs were pretty slim. To further compound the difficulty, he also had to contend with the fact that Red Dragon had actually been made before. In 1986, Michael Mann directed Brian Cox as Hannibal Lecter in Manhunter, which was adapted directly from Red Dragon, Thomas Harris' first novel. So not only was Ratner making a prequel to one of the most successful films in history, but it was a prequel remake too. Dangerous ground indeed.

    One of the key ingredients that served The Silence Of The Lambs so well was the superbly crafted script. Featuring exquisite character interactions between Anthony Hopkins' Dr Lecter and Jodie Foster's Clarice Starling, the like we see so rarely in film, at least Red Dragon got off to a solid start when original Lambs scriptwriter Ted Tally was employed to translate the novel to the big screen.

    Anthony Hopkins again returns as Hannibal Lecter. The majority of the story is set just before the events of The Silence Of The Lambs with the opening scenes of the film set way back in 1980 and dedicated to showing just how the FBI captured Hannibal Lecter. Special Agent Will Graham (Edward Norton) is nearly killed in bringing Lecter to justice and bears not only near fatal physical wounds, but a deep and unsettlingly psychological scar that time will not heal. Flip forward several years and Graham has effectively retired to a small town in Florida, the burden of his encounter with Lecter just too much to allow him to continue working. When his old boss Jack Crawford (Harvey Keitel takes on the role of FBI heavy originally played by Scott Glenn in Lambs) comes calling with news of a new serial killer on the loose and seeking Graham's help, his old desire to solve crimes is renewed. It seems a crazed killer, dubbed "The Tooth Fairy" for the bite marks left on victims, has been murdering whole families in particularly gruesome circumstances. Graham takes up the challenge to bring this killer to justice, but is reluctant to seek the help of the now incarcerated Hannibal Lecter, when that unthinkable suggestion is put forward by Jack Crawford. Graham must overcome his own deep-seated fear and deal with the demons of the past in confronting Lecter. But confront him he does, and while these are no match for the scenes featuring Foster and Hopkins, this is so much stronger than anything in Hannibal simply because Lecter is back where he is at his most tantalising, in that creepy basement cell of his and the gore has been completely erased. Using clues provided by Lecter, Will Graham is able to get a better picture of just who the serial killer might be. The killer is played by Ralph Fiennes. As Francis Dolarhyde (aka "The Tooth Fairy"), he brings the right mix of insanity and vulnerability to the role, though he is certainly not the creepiest killer I have seen on the screen. It is the vulnerable side of him that attracts a flirtatious blind women to him. Played by Emily Watson, she is enamoured with Dolarhyde's strength and the air of mystery that surrounds him. Not able to be put off by his physical disfigurement, she may be about to get more than she bargained for. The small role from Philip Seymour Hoffman as suitably annoying weasel reporter Freddy Lounds is a highlight. He plays a dirtbag with such relish that he could almost become typecast as one. Ed Norton's portrayal of Graham is solid enough, but the whole story does have a by-the-numbers feel to it, and at times so does his acting. He is at his best when painstakingly recreating the crimes and searching for the all-important evidence. The physical confrontations and limited action scenes are fairly bland and nothing you won't have seen before, though I particularly liked the way the film neatly dove-tails the ending into the beginning of The Silence Of The Lambs.

    If you want to familiarise yourself with the earlier films, take a look at my reviews of The Silence of The Lambs and Hannibal or have a look at CarlB's very detailed review of Manhunter.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    Like the last couple of Universal titles that I have had the pleasure of reviewing, the transfer afforded Red Dragon is clean, sharp and overall quite excellent. It is again almost perfect - almost but not quite for reasons I'll explain further. Filmed in Panavision with anamorphic lenses, this transfer is presented in the original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1 and comes complete with 16x9 enhancement.

    This is a very sharply detailed transfer. I saw no evidence of any edge enhancement and shadow detail is handled beautifully. Grain is minimal to the point of not being noticed unless you are really looking for it and there is no low level noise. Colours are from a similar palette to those found in The Silence Of The Lambs, being very much muted and washed out. A real grey tone is evident throughout much of the film which lends a chilling aspect to the visuals. There are no problems associated with bleeding or oversaturation. The colours are certainly not vibrant, but then this is supposed to be a chilling tale and that calls for chilling colours.

    There are no MPEG compression artefacts. On the film-to-video front, some aliasing shimmer on a few different surfaces, some more noticeable than others, detracts from the otherwise clean print. The most notable examples occur early on at 0:53 on the concert stage, 2:58 on the dinner plates, 37:38 on a shingle roof and a really annoying case on a brick wall at 68:38. There are few film artefacts of any note to worry about, which given the youth of the source material and the budget is exactly how I would expect it to be

    There are plenty of subtitle options to keep everyone happy. I sampled the English variety and found them adequate. One point worth noting here is that the same problem that affected The Silence Of The Lambs in regards to the location captions crops up here. There are several cases throughout the film where captions are used to identify the story location. I didn't see the film theatrically, but I'd imagine that like in The Silence Of The Lambs, they would have been in a very distinct font and screen position. These have simply been placed in a subtitle stream using the boring block font so commonly used for this purpose. It does detract from an otherwise pleasing visual experience.

    This is a dual layered disc with RSDL formatting, but the layer change is very well hidden. I was unable to pick it either time I watched the film.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    There are two audio soundtracks on this disc. Like the recent Universal rental disc of The Bourne Identity, this disc contains a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack in addition to a dts 5.1 soundtrack. The former is encoded at a bitrate of 384 Kb/s and the latter at a bitrate of 768 Kb/s. I listened to both tracks in their entirety. Both are clean, dynamic and powerful, with plenty of directional effects, solid low end, and consistent and well-intentioned rear channel use. There really is little to differentiate the Dolby Digital and dts tracks and either will surely please.

    The dialogue quality is an important aspect of this film, and both audio soundtracks deliver the goods. There are no audio sync problems.

    Danny Elfman's score, while not capturing the uniqueness so evident in Howard Shore's magnificent The Silence Of The Lambs effort, is by no means a dud. Paying homage to many of the psychological thrillers from the past, with the most notable being Psycho, it builds tight tension in very many scenes perfectly. Slowly and deliberate at times until it reaches a climax, this is a very good example of a psychological thriller score.

    Surround channel use is consistent throughout, with no real unusual or misplaced effects pushed through to the rears. The opening title sequence offers plenty of enveloping surround as do the early scenes at Will Graham's home in Florida. The latter sees plenty of birds and other wildlife chirping in all corners of the room.

    While this isn't a major action film with lots of large explosions and the like, the subwoofer does see plenty of use. The best example would be at 106:03 where a rather substantial explosion rocks the room.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    Since this is a rental disc, the list of extras is substantially reduced from what we can hopefully expect when the retail version hits the shelves later this year.

Main Menu Introduction

    Nicely themed around the mental hospital cell of Hannibal Lecter's with a few assorted serial killer accoutrements thrown in for good measure. Quite chilling audio is a highlight here.

Main Menu Audio

dts Trailer - Piano

Trailer - The Hulk

    This is the same teaser trailer that appears on The Bourne Identity rental disc. Running for 58 seconds it provides very little visual information about the upcoming Eric Bana comic book blockbuster. I guess that's why it's called a teaser trailer!

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This is certainly not a like-for-like comparison at this stage, since the Region 4 disc is a rental and from what I can gather there are two separate versions of this title to be released in Region 1 on April 1, 2003. One is labelled a Collector's Edition and the other a Director's Edition. From the information I can find, the actual films contained on each version are exactly the same, it is merely the inclusion of some additional director-themed content on the second disc that sees it earn the Director's Edition tag. It must also be noted that neither of the Region 1 versions appear to contain a dts soundtrack.

    The Region 1 Collector's Edition contains the following:

    The Region 1 Two-Disc Director's Edition includes all of the above extras and the following:

    Hopefully, the Region 4 sell-through disc will have at least the same contents as the Collector's Edition, or even better still, both versions will be released here. For now, either of the Region 1 discs is the clear winner. This may change if Region 4 keeps the dts soundtrack and picks up all the extras.


    While certainly not anywhere near the league of The Silence Of The Lambs, this is a better film than Hannibal, probably for the sole reason that Hannibal Lecter is back where he belongs, in that creepy dungeon cell and the cheesy gore scenes are nowhere to be seen. The direction is solid, but lacks any real style that was so necessary to elevate this film to anywhere near Jonathan Demme's 1991 classic.

    The video quality on offer here is excellent, though not quite perfect, being let down by some excessive shimmer on a few surfaces.

    The audio quality is excellent. The dts soundtrack is an added bonus, but it hardly differs from the Dolby Digital effort.

    There are effectively no extras. Hopefully this will be rectified when the retail version hits the shelves.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Darren Walters (It's . . . just the vibe . . . of my bio)
Saturday, March 08, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDLoewe Xemix 5106DO, using RGB output
DisplayLoewe Calida (84cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationHarmon/Kardon AVR7000.
SpeakersFront - B&W 602S2, Centre - B&W CC6S2, Rear - B&W 601S2, Sub - Energy E:xl S10

Other Reviews
AllZone4DVD - Kevin S
DVD Net - Terry K
The DVD Bits - Mark M - Daniel R

Comments (Add)
Rental windows suck! - Anonymous