The first film from director Danny Boyle since his success with the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, although principal photography actually wrapped before the games took place. It’s a somewhat low key affair compared to the grandeur and spectacle of the ceremony – a taught psychological mystery revolving around James McAvoy trying to remember where he hid an extremely valuable piece of art, having received an unplanned blow to the head whilst stealing it. Something his partners in crime, Vincent Cassel amongst them (and if you’ve seen him as the titular criminal in ‘Mesrine: Killer Instinct’, this is certainly cause for concern), are none too happy about, thus they enlist the services of hypnotherapist Elizabeth, played by Rosario Dawson.
Boyle uses a lot of his trademark stylistics to just pull this film off, including apt use of techno music from Underworld’s Rick Smith (a long time collaborator of Boyle’s), off level camera angles, and a warm and somewhat unique orange hue to the cinematography, with some modern day industry standard blues thrown in there too. This artificial edginess, together with good acting, does keep it interesting, and there are enough clues along the way as to what’s going on to hold interest without completely spoiling the ending. The film also highlights a peculiarity in British and American cinema. The performance from Dawson is very committed, featuring as it does a moment of brazen full frontal nudity, which is immediately followed by a nude McAvoy sitting on a bed awaiting the libidinous attentions of Dawson’s character, and yet he has his hand covering his manhood. By comparison it seems a little ridiculous, not to mention somewhat unfair on Dawson, and, perhaps, female viewers. Surely one either has to show a similar state of vulnerability, or simply cut to the sex scene or afterwards?
With this in mind it occurred to The Red Dragon just how rare it is to see male genitalia on film outside of the arthouse realm, notwithstanding Michael Fassbender who breaks the rules by being so well endowed it is actually visible from behind in ‘Shame’. Indeed, the only incidences which come to mind at present are the very memorable scene with Harvey Keitel in the original ‘Bad Lieutenant’ and Sacha Baron Cohen in ‘Bruno’, although in that instance it was more like a covert penile assault on the audience. If female actors are going to have to do so many sex scenes, with arguably most offering nothing to the story other than visual appeal, who also have more bits per capita to want to keep private anyway, then surely more men should ‘man up’ and put it out there for public consumption too? I’m sure all the poor women who have had their private photos hacked into and then blasted over the internet, or have had a zillion cameras pointed at their legs as they get out of cars all literally hoping for the money shot, would appreciate a little more solidarity and support from their industry. Although, it would mean potentially featuring in a dire song from Seth MacFarlane at the Oscars. Ironically, both Fassbender and Scarlett Johansson (recent victim of phone hacking) were actually considered for roles in this film, with the former being offered and accepting one, but having to pull out due to scheduling conflicts.