Long before "Silence of the Lambs" was a box office smash, Dr Hannibal Lecter had previously graced movie screens in this lesser known adaptation of Thomas Harris's first book "Red Dragon".
Troubled former FBI investigator Will Graham (played by a pre-CSI William Peterson) is begrudgingly pressed back into service by his former boss, as they desperately need his unique skills to help them catch a serial killer, who's so far managed to elude them. Striking at each full moon, he's been dubbed 'The Tooth Fairy' (played rather menacingly by genre actor Tom Noonan), as he breaks into peoples houses in the dead of night and kills them in their bedrooms.
But despite Will's special insight into the criminal mind, even he seems to be struggling to discover the killers identity and is forced to enlist the help of a former associate of his, a certain Hannibal Lecter (played here by Brian Cox). A brilliant psychiatrist, as well as a criminal mastermind, who was once a police consultant, before Will Graham unmasked him as being a brutal serial killer himself.
Currently languishing in a maximum security psychiatric hospital, getting information out of Lecter proves to be no easy task, as he seems more interested in playing mind games than helping with the case. But with the next full moon fast approaching, its a race against time to try and and find out who the Tooth Fairy is and where he will strike next, before he gets the chance to kill again.
Directed by Michael Mann, who was better known at the time for the TV cop show "Miami Vice", the film is notably different in style to the later films based on Thomas Harris's Hannibal Lecter books. This one felt more like a TV detective thriller than a cinematic horror film, which isn't helped by the fact that William Peterson went on to star in "CSI" and the film also stars noted TV actor Denis Farina as FBI boss Jack Crawford, a regular in various TV cop shows. Though I think the overall feel was down to the fact that the director was still cutting his cinematic teeth at the time, as his later, more notable, films such as "Heat" and "Collateral", were completely different in style.
Also worth noting is that Dr Lecter doesn't really get that much screen time here and only features in about half a dozen scenes, with film focusing instead on Will Graham's efforts to stop the Tooth Fairy. Brian Cox's portrayal of Lecter is also notably different to that of Anthony Hopkins, who portrayed him in the later films. Coming across here as more of an eccentric, than a brooding psychopath, though he is no less sinister. There's also no mention of him being a cannibal in this either.
If you've seen the other films in this series with Anthony Hopkins, particularly "Red Dragon" which was adapted from the same novel, then you should check this out for comparison. Also, if you liked the TV series with Mads Mikkelson as Lecter, then you really should check this out as the series seems to owe more than a passing nod to this..