There are two ways of looking at Red Dragon. If you know Michael Mann’s Manhunter, the 1986 film of Thomas Harris’ novel, then this is a remake. If you knew nothing of Hannibal Lecter until Jonathan Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs, then Red Dragon is a prequel to that Oscar-winning 1990 film. Either way, it is a cynical attempt to cash-in on the burgeoning Lecter cult, which has since continued with Ridley Scott’s appalling Hannibal.

It is also a despicable piece of hack work, the bludgeoning direction of Rush Hour’s Brett Ratner conspiring with Lambs’ scribe Ted Tally’s clunky storytelling, Danny Elfman’s over-insistent score, and some

Despicable piece of hack work

ludicrously over-ripe performances to mangle every one of the book’s stunning set-pieces.

The ominously bad pre-credits sequence set the tone. Distorting the novel’s storyline to place Lecter centre-stage, it shows him serving tasty sweetbreads to some cultured musical types. FBI agent Will Graham (Ed Norton), the film’s true protagonist, arrives later, to seek help with a case he and Lecter have been working on together, blissfully unaware that his host may be the killer.

Producer Dino de Laurentiis disingenuously justifies this opening by referring to a new prologue Harris has written for the book. What he means is: ‘Lecter’s cult persona is what drives the lucrative franchise, so he needs more screen time.’

Graham’s search for the family-slaughtering Tooth Fairy has been reduced to a side-show, incidental to the symbiotic relationship between the now incarcerated Lecter and the FBI agent who put him behind bars. You finally abandon all hope during Graham’s visit to the Leeds family’s blood- splattered house, where his supposed creative empathy with the serial killer’s twisted mind-set is rendered banal by Ratner’s crass visualisations, Tally’s prosaic dialogue and Norton’s inexplicably

vacant demeanour.

To enumerate the film’s myriad failings would require a book, but for admirers of the novel or Manhunter, here goes. Hopkins’ Lecter has degenerated into a lip-smacking pantomime figure, all knowing smirks and exaggerated enunciation. Brian Cox’s incarnation remains definitive. By externalising the Red Dragon figure which the Tooth Fairy is trying to internalise, scriptwriter Tally and the incongruously handsome Ralph Fiennes completely misunderstand the killer’s obsession with the William Blake painting. Edward Norton’s Will Graham utterly lacks the tortured vulnerability William Petersen previously brought to the role. The normally brilliant actor even fluffs one of the greatest scenes in modern cinema, in which Graham solves the mystery of the killer’s intimacy with the target families and their homes, delivering Tally’s (admittedly unspeakable) dialogue in a flat monotone. Not to mention the abusive grandmother's cod-Psycho voice-over and the absurd added scenes in which Fiennes’ killer wrestles with his conscience and is almost redeemed by his love for blind co-worker Reba (Emily Watson). Red Dragon is, in short, a cannibalistic crime. (Nigel Floyd)

I General release from Fri 77 Oct.

DRAMA ONE HOUR PHOTO (15) 95min .0.

Two things abOLit One Hour Photo: First that it's the debut feature Of former pop promo director Mark Romanek he who gave gloss to the likes of Madonna. Lenny

Inspired casting

KraVitz and Janet Jackson and second. that it stars Robin Williams in a role that flies in the face of the Disneyesque family-friendly parts we‘re used to seeing him play. The role is that of Sy Parrish. a lonely photo technician who finds (by in the preciOLis moments of other people's lives. most notably the Yorkins l'yOur kin' . . . geddit'h. a picture-perfect family who've Visned the Savmart mini-lab where Sy werks Since the birth of their nine-year-old son. His own life devoid of coIOur and humanity. as represented by his working enVironment a great white church of conSLimerism. Sy tries to take his place in the frame of the ideal family. but when he finds the husband to be at fault and the picture to be less than perfect he. like lonely-iiian anti-hero TraVis Bickle (TaXi Driven before him. takes matters into his own (conSiderably psychotiCl hands. Indeed affinities With TaXI Driver are easy to see. Like Bickle. Sy Parrish is a moral crusader. In the

same way that Scorcese created a character who is understandably insane. Romanek succeeds in giVing us a man who is SimultaneOusly sympathetic and repulsive. Ergo the casting of Robin Williams is inspired likeable because he's good old Mrs Doubtfire and terrifying for the same reason.

SO. one of the two reservations about One Hour Photo —- namely that the casting of Williams wouldn't be credible goes off Without a hitch. The other concern. that a pop promo director ‘.'.«'()ul(l write and direct a film that s style over substance. is not so clear cut. Arguably. style wins the day thanks to cinematograplfer Jeff Cronenweth's sharp composmons and Tom Foden's egually sparse production desrgn. Substance has a good run of it. but it's ultimately hobbled by Romanek's simplistic explanation for Sy Parrish's motivation in all this.

(Catherine Broiiileyi I General release from Fri 4 Oct.



This is all about being bad. it pits a wilful toddler. Lilo (pronounced Lee- IOW). against a genetically engineered space creature (Stitch) who's been programmed for maximum mischief. Both love to be bad. Which is a good thing. It means the mawkish route beloved of Disney animators is well and truly blocked. When they want to get yetir sympathy. they have to earn it. And. happy to report. they do.

OK. so it's a minor movie it doesn't have the budget or vision of a Monsters. Inc. and just because it’s got watercolour backdrops doesn't make it Dumbo »— but what it does. it does with freshness and inventiveness. not to mention gags for the grown-ups.

Its theme is that of the ueg duckling. updated to explore how wild—spirited individuals might fit into a conformist world. Neither wants to repress their distinctive qualities. not the tomboyish Lilo. with her flights of fantasy and her curious Elvis obsession. nor the ferocious Stitch. with his cache of guns and his indestructibility gene. In that. we're on their side except that if they stay as they are. they risk losing everything. To survive. they have to learn the art of compromise.

The debate is a very American

About being bad

one about the conflict between the rights of the individual and the demands of the family. And yes. because it's an American film. the family Wins out. But not without a struggle.

The misfit orphan Lilo risks being snatched from her Hawaiian home (and the care of her big sister) not only by the social work department but also by an alien spacecraft. That she overcomes such obstacles. taming the untaiiieable Stitch in the process. makes her all the more loveable and her victory all the more sweet.

Could have done with a bit more EIVis. but that he's there at all adds to the iiioVIe's quirky charm.

(Mark Fisherl I General release from Fri -1 Oct.

3, '7 (x: 92‘. .‘ THE LIST 27