RED DRAGON. (2002) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

RED DRAGON. (2002) DIRECTED BY BRETT RATNER. STARRING ANTHONY HOPKINS, ED NORTON, HARVEY KEITEL, PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN, RALPH FIENNES, MARY-LOUISE PARKER AND EMILY WATSON. REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This is a superb horror film. There isn’t a single bad thing to say about it. It’s one fifth of the fantastic quintet of Hannibal Lecter films that also includes THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, HANNIBAL and HANNIBAL RISING and MANHUNTER.

This film, though it was made after THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, is actually the prequel to it. It first of all tells us how evil genius Hannibal Lecter came to the attention of the police in the first place, and the gory circumstances of his apprehension and incarceration in that special cell for the criminally insane in which we are accustomed to seeing him. You know, with the mask on and everything so he can’t (literally) bite the hand that feeds him, haha.

Then it tells us a different and equally thrilling story. The story, to be precise, of the deranged serial killer known to the police and the media as The Tooth Fairy. This is a killer who slaughters entire families in the most sickening ways. Who, if anyone, is capable of catching such a maniac…? The FBI are putting all of their eggs in one basket on this one, folks.

These eggs take the form of Special Agent Will Graham, the man who caught Hannibal Lecter. (I’m not really saying he’s an egg, of course, it’s just a metaphor!) Now, Graham adroitly picks Lecter’s brains in an attempt to figure out the identity of The Tooth Fairy.

The scenes of verbal thrust and parry in which the two engage with each other are terrific fun. Anthony Hopkins is just so good as Hannibal Lecter that you feel you could watch him in the role for all eternity. Well, that’s how I feel about his faultless and gripping performances, anyway. The reader, naturally, may have a different opinion…!

Ralph Fiennes is also utterly electrifying as the messed-up photograph-and-home-movies development technician whose upbringing was so abusive you could almost forgive him for turning out so loopy. We see rather a lot of Ralph’s naked butt in the movie. He’s in great shape and one gets the impression that he likes to show off his body.

It’s certainly not the first time we’ve seen his naked butt in a film. Remember THE END OF THE AFFAIR with Julianne Moore and Stephen Ray…? Phwoarrr…! (On another note, one can’t help but wonder what Professor Dumbledore would have made of such flagrantly saucy shenanigans on the part of Voldemort, the Harry Potter villain…!)

In SCHINDLER’S LIST, I think he might have been nekkid as well, just before the famous balcony scene in which he picks off concentration camp inmates with his rifle while his lady love bitches from the bed at him. ‘Amon, you fucking idiot, knock it off!’ Or words to that effect.

Harvey Keitel as FBI Agent Jack Crawford is another actor whose naked butt we’ve also seen on the big screen, THE PIANO with Holly Hunter being a definite case in point. The late great Philip Seymour Hoffman does not show off his naked butt in his film, though he does appear partially-dressed in one scene, haha. He turns in a great performance as the loathsome investigative journalist Freddy Lounds who meets with a gruesome death at the hands of the killer.

There are so many memorable scenes in the film that it’s hard to single out just one or two for special mention. I love when Ralph Fiennes is getting a blow-job from ANGELA’S ASHES lead actress Emily Watson while he’s watching the home movies of the next family he plans to kill.

Reba McClane is blind, you see, so she doesn’t know what he’s looking at. She actually thinks he’s turned-on because of her…! It’s just so twisted and somehow disturbed that it makes for unmissable viewing. 

Can you imagine getting a blow-job off your wan from ANGELA’S ASHES? She’s an excellent actress and I honestly dig her but she’s got such a miserable face, God love her. If she was giving someone a blow-job, it’s probably be with the same pained expression of someone performing a tiresome but necessary chore that she seems to wear in all her films. I also love the tiger-petting scene for the powerful emotions which it unleashes in both Reba and Dolarhyde.

There’s a nice little twist at the end which leads us neatly into THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Watching all five Hannibal Lecter films back-to-back or, say, over the course of one weekend, would make for a great horror movie marathon or film festival theme. Feel free to use my idea. Don’t worry, you won’t be stealing it or anything. It’s already totally patent-pending, I can assure you…!

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
 
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Stops-Sandra-Harris-ebook/dp/B089DJMH64
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thirteen-Stops-Later-Book-ebook/dp/B091J75WNB/
 

TAXI DRIVER. (1976) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

TAXI DRIVER. (1976) DIRECTED BY MARTIN SCORSESE. SCREENPLAY WRITTEN BY PAUL SCHRADER. MUSIC BY BERNARD HERRMANN.
STARRING ROBERT DE NIRO, JODIE FOSTER, CYBILL SHEPHERD, LEONARD HARRIS, PETER BOYLE AND HARVEY KEITEL.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

So much has been written and said about TAXI DRIVER, one of Martin Scorsese’s best and most memorable movies. It’s too violent. It’s a vigilante film, but one in which the vigilante is experiencing a severe existential crisis. Travis Bickle is an anti-hero-slash-murderous thug. Jodie Foster as Iris was too young to be witnessing such violence as takes place in the climactic shoot-out. The film’s too dark/too bleak/too grim. It has no redeeming features. Well, these things might be true or they might not be true, but one thing is for sure. TAXI DRIVER is an unforgettable slice of cinema pie.

Robert De Niro is superb as lead character, Travis Bickle, an ex-Marine and Vietnam veteran who’s trying to find his way back to the world after the horrors of war. Even if we didn’t know he was a Vietnam veteran, we’d still know he was someone who’d been away somewhere for a while- prison, maybe, or a mental asylum- and who was having trouble adapting or acclimatising back to real life. He looks at the world and its occupants like he’s seeing them for the first time and doesn’t quite know what to make of it all.

He lives in one room, a room which he doesn’t know how to make comfortable for himself or how to make it feel like a real home, which surely he must have had once. Travis Bickle suckling on mother’s milk? Hey, everyone, even a half-baked vigilante assassin-type, had a mother once…

He works nights as a taxi driver because his nights are miserable, too long and fraught with insomnia and over-thinking. He occasionally mixes with the other cabbies, who’ve all been in the cabby-ing game for a long time now. He even confides in the much older, worldy-wise driver Wizard, but Wizard hasn’t got the answer to Travis’s problems.

After messing up his fledgling relationship with posh girl Betsy (a gorgeous Cybill Shepherd), who’s working on the political campaign to elect Senator Charles Palantine as President, Travis’s existential crisis comes on him like a cloak of fog on a country road at night. What the hell is the point of living, anyway? What’s it all about?

Travis stocks up on guns and teaches himself to shoot in order to fill the emptiness inside him that started long before Bitchy Betsy left him outside the porno theatre where he’d taken her for an ill-judged night out.

God Almighty, Travis man! You don’t take your classy Uptown Girl to a seedy porno cinema where the only other customers are sleazy old men with their hands inside the raincoats they wear to cover their shame! That’s Dating 101, that is. It’d be like taking the fucking Queen to see Roy Chubby Brown in fucking concert, that would.

Anyway. Alone Again, naturally. Travis spends hours alone in his untidy, uncomfortable bedroom, which resembles at this stage a sort of overnight army camping spot, practising his moves with his guns in the mirror and perfecting his by now iconic speech:

“You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? You talkin’ to me? Then who the hell else are you talkin’ to? You talkin’ to me? Well I’m the only one here. Who the fuck do you think you’re talking to?”

He’s the only one here. How very true that is. Travis is desperately lonely, unsure of his purpose in life. He sees the people all around him interacting effortlessly with each other, and wonders in the back of his mind why he can’t manage to do the same himself. Is it the post-Vietnam PTSD that’s responsible? Or maybe Travis is autistic and doesn’t know it. It would explain his difficulties talking to people, his lack of social skills.

Travis then attempts to save twelve-year-old prostitute Iris, played by an already competent and professional Jodie Foster, from herself, her grim situation and her manipulative pimp Matthew (Harvey Keitel, but he’s not running around in the nip in this one, that’s THE PIANO you’re thinking of!), nicknamed Sport. She hasn’t asked to be saved, by the way.

It’s Travis’s way of going some good in the world, of making his mark, whether little Iris wants to be returned to her parents or not. After all, didja see ‘em in the newspaper? They’re no spring chickens, I’ll say that for them…!

Travis may even be feeling that he won’t come out of the showdown alive. He could be contemplating suicide-by-cop, or suicide by lowlife, drug-dealing pimping scumbags. He might equally be thinking of taking his own life.

Either way, Travis Bickle will meet his destiny in the scruffy, ill-lit landings of the shabby brothel where Iris works. He acts like a man on a mission that must be kept secret at all costs, a man preparing for a war that only he knows about. God help us all.

What kind of guys do you think carry out school or mosque shootings? Guys like Travis, maybe, who think that society has abandoned them and nobody cares about them? If only we could look into everyone’s bedrooms and see which people are standing in front of their mirrors trying on guns for size and practising the speech they’ll make if they ever get the audience they crave. But of course privacy laws wouldn’t allow it. We will have to figure out some other way to identify these ‘involuntary celibates,’ as they’re becoming known, before they commit their ill-judged crimes.

What do you think of the very last scene, anyway? I prefer to pretend it doesn’t even exist, lol. TAXI DRIVER ends when Travis Bickle puts his fingers, gun-shaped, to his own head, and don’t you be telling me any different. Are you talkin’ to me, or what…?

I adore the musical score, composed by Bernard Herrmann, who also did the iconic theme tunes to Alfred Hitchcock movies, PSYCHO, VERTIGO, THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH and NORTH BY NORTHWEST. He also did the music for the stone-cold classic film, CITIZEN KANE. What fabulous stuff to have on your CV. There’s one guy I’d like to play Celebrity Dinner Party with.

This is one of my personal favourites of Martin Scorsese’s films. I love GOODFELLAS too, of course, and CAPE FEAR, CASINO, MEAN STREETS and RAGING BULL. Robert De Niro’s association with the director has done him no harm at all, and vice versa. Travis Bickle is a guy we can alternately pity, admire, identify with and be repulsed by. He’s a complicated mix of good and bad, scared and fearless, repugnant and loveable. Love him or hate him, you won’t forget him.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
 
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO
Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://amzn.to/3ulKWkv
Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
https://www.amazon.com/Thirteen-Stops-Sandra-Harris-ebook/dp/B089DJMH64
The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:
 https://www.amazon.co.uk/Thirteen-Stops-Later-Book-ebook/dp/B091J75WNB/