Starring: William Petersen, Tom Noonan, Kim Greist, Joan Allen, Brian Cox, Dennis Farina, Stephen Lang
Director: Michael Mann
When a horrific killer called the “Tooth Fairy” (Noonan) is on the loose, the FBI calls in former profiler Will Graham (Petersen) who might be the only person who can stop the murders. But Graham is still haunted by his encounter with Hannibal Lecktor (Cox) who might have a connection to this case too.
This film is the first time that Lecktor was brought to the screen, adapted from Thomas Harris book Red Dragon. It was also on the forefront of films that looked at profilers and their forensic work, which would lead to a slew of TV shows and movies with this psychological and scientific work at their heart. William Petersen on CSI would not have been possible without him first being in this film.
That said, the film is unusual in it’s style and tone, and has found more of a cult following in later years than achieving box office success in it’s own time. The use of strong colour and some of the way that Graham talks out loud feels really stylised and cold, and the music plays a strong role in defining the film as of it’s time. It feels like a very mid-80’s film. And it’s coldness and strong imagery can make it hard to get into. But in a way, that’s the point. The mind of a killer is a cold and hard to get into place.
Brian Cox is good as Lecktor, though not as good as later iterations would be. Petersen feels natural as a man who has to get into the mind of a killer and who in the process becomes a lot like him. And Noonan as the Tooth Fairy feels just the right amount of weird that he would be able to pass as a harmless oddball in normal society, but be a total psycho underneath.
Michael Mann hadn’t done many films before this, and what he brings out of his actors and the style of the whole film is a little heavy handed, but also really good. A sign of a great director to come.
The story is gripping and will get under your skin. You’ll worry about WIll Graham in this film, as he descends into the dark to try to stop the killer and save lives, but he might lose his own sanity in the process.
See It If: a wonderfully directed film, it’s worth seeing for the style of the whole, as well as a film about Will Graham and Hannibal Lecktor.