Saturday, June 20, 2009


Manhunter; thriller, USA, 1986; D: Michael Mann, S: William Petersen, Dennis Farina, Kim Greist, Brian Cox, Stephen Lang, Joan Allen, Tom Noonan

Former FBI agent Will Graham decides to join the investigation of mysterious homicides after his colleague shows the photos of a murdered family. The killer is obviously a psychopath who attacks only during full moon, and due to the unusual jaw he got the nickname "Tooth fairy". Will asks assistance from murderer Dr. Hannibal Lecter, whom he put behind bars. But Hannibal contacts the killer and even gives him suggestions to kill Will's family in Florida. The killer is Francis who tries to killer a blind woman after a relationship, but Will finds and stops him in time.

Excellent crime thriller "Manhunter", an adaptation of Thomas Harris' novel "Red Dragon", is by it's story, assembly and direction even superior to the hyped sequel "The Silence of the Lambs". Michael Mann proved to be a clever director with loads of highlights, whereas here the thing that matters to him is the style, not violence: the nights are filmed in beautifully blue cinematography, embodying some evasive spirit of the 80s, while details are fantastic, like when agent Will reconstructs the murder in a bloody house by reading the report from the paper. In prison he meets Hannibal Lecter who immediately greets him with a critique ("You still use that awful aftershave?") while he replies him that he captured him because he had a "flaw called madness". It's a pity that Lecter only has a small, 5 minute appearance, but he is wonderfully played by Brian Cox, who refused to repeat his role in "Lambs". It's also excellent how the police is trying to analyze his message on a toilet paper using various technologies. Some have lamented about the odd synthesizer music, but it's one of the finest scores of the 80s, unbelievably blending in with the film as a whole in creating a magical, almost esoteric mood.



cinemarchaeologist said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who noticed MANHUNTER was far better than THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS.

I go ever farther and say Brian Cox is a much better Lector than Anthony Hopkins, who won the Academy Award for his portrayal. The trouble with Sir Anthony's take on the character is that his Lector is so obviously crazy. You can look into his face and see it instantly. Cox is much more effective as a more mundane fellow, someone who really could commit Lector's crimes and still appear normal. The scene where he casually asks for Graham's home phone number is especially well-played--the temperature drops 30 degrees as we realize the implications of the request.

The movie is a very faithful adaptation of the Harris book with the noteworthy exception of the ending--the film does it better.

MANHUNTER didn't do so well at the box office, but it became a monster hit on video, and it's one of the most influential films of the 1980s. It was the first time we saw a profiler work in a movie, and contemporary police dramas of that sort were virtually born with it.

The film was remade a few years ago as RED DRAGON by Hollywood hack Brett Ratner. Ratner, working from the same material and with Hopkins and normally-rock-solid Ed Norton on board, grinds out a terrible film--wretched in every particular. It's useful primarily in demonstrating the importance of having talented people behind the camera. When you do, you get MANHUNTER; when you don't, you get RED DRAGON (and a headache).

Marin Mandir said...

Interesting observations. Yes, I also prefer this over "Lambs". While "Lambs" was a competent film, "Manhunter" had some almost esoteric mood incorporated into it that fascinated me. And from time to time, I also wonder what could have been if Brian Cox played in "Lambs" in '91.