After the slurpy-slurp suspense of "The Silence of the Lambs" and the okey-dokey panto horror of "Hannibal", Anthony Hopkins returns as iconic serial killer Dr Lecter in a prequel that promises to explore the "origin of evil".
It doesn't, of course. When we meet cinema's favourite psycho here - in a bloody, edgy prologue where he's captured by FBI Agent Will Graham (Norton) - he's the same fecund, frightful cannibal we know and love to hate.
But he's very, very angry. And when Graham seeks his help to track down family-slaying freak the Tooth Fairy (Fiennes), Lecter spies an opportunity for revenge. Cat 'n' mouse confrontations ensue, with the good doctor offering elliptical advice from within his cell.
Sound familiar? Of course it does. "Red Dragon" resurrects the sweaty intensity of "Silence", while the source material, Thomas Harris' eponymous first novel, has already been filmed as "Manhunter".
A sense of deja vu pervades Brett Ratner's picture and even if you aren't familiar with the story it'll be hard to suppress frustration at Graham's painfully slow deductions (Norton - so astounding in "Fight Club" - is a vacuum here, his callow features totally at odds with Graham's veteran status).
But, despite these flaws, "Red Dragon" isn't simply a cash cow being milked by producer Dino De Laurentiis. Compensating for Norton is Hopkins' relish at playing his indelible creation incarcerated again, plus mesmerising supporting turns from Emily Watson as a blind potential victim and Philip Seymour Hoffman as a tabloid hack. Fiennes excels too, transcending his character's limitations to create a pitiable loner who both frightens and resonates.
Hannibal Lecter gourmets may feel a long-digested movie is repeating on them, but if this really is your first time, savour the taste.