When two families are murdered by a serial killer, FBI agent Jack Crawford (Harvey Keitel) seeks the help of retired Special Agent Will Graham (Edward Norton). Graham retired after a near fatal stabbing while capturing forensic psychiatrist and serial cannibal, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins). As Graham sifts through the clues, he learns that the new killer admires Dr. Lecter’s work. So Will must face Hannibal again to get the insane but brilliant psychiatrist’s help identifying the killer. But Lecter plays by his own rules and Will could get more than he bargains for. Fans of the Hannibal Lecter series and mystery-thrillers will especially enjoy this return to the origins and introduction of the social cannibal.
Clues lead to Francis Dolarhyde (Ralph Fiennes), a co-worker of blind film processor Reba McClane (Emily Watson). Although blind, Reba seems to recognize Francis’ need to have someone care about him. It’s implied that Francis was abused as a child, both physical and verbal, which warped his personality. Dealing with his physical defect, a ‘hairlip,’ pushed Francis’ mental state further toward insanity. Dolarhyde has a fixation with a painting by poet/artist William Blake called The Red Dragon. He even has the dragon tattooed on his back. And Francis also hears the dragon telling him to commit murders. Blood and gore flow freely, especially in photos of the crime scenes. While the dialogue is peppered with objectionable words, images of violence and bloody wounds overshadow the language. Although one scene implies a sexual encounter between Francis and Reba, no sex acts are shown. However, some breast nudity is seen in photos of victims and brief full nudity of Francis as he runs naked through his house add further damage to acceptability.