Thursday, October 11, 2012

737. Manhunter (1986)

Running Time: 121 minutes
Directed By: Michael Mann
Written By: Michael Mann, from the novel Red Dragon by Thomas Harris
Main Cast: William Petersen, Dennis Farina, Tom Noonan, Brian Cox, Kim Greist
Click here to view the trailer


Actually, in "Manhunter" Hannibal's name is spelled "Lecktor", not "Lecter", but it's spelled Lecter in the more popular film, so we'll go with that one. For reasons that I can't even explain, this was the first time I'd seen "Manhunter" and being a big fan of "The Silence of the Lambs", I was excited to check this out.

The movie plays out very similar to "The Silence of the Lambs", with Will Graham (Petersen) in the Clarice Starling role. When the film opens, Graham is a retired FBI criminal profiler, who was sent into retirement via the mind games of Dr. Hannibal Lecktor. Graham was the man responsible for catching Lecktor, but when he programmed his mind to think like the cannibalistic doctor, he couldn't shake the evil thoughts, sending him into a breakdown. Now, his special talents are needed once again, as his FBI superior, Jack Crawford (Farina), comes calling when a new serial killer is on the loose. The new killer is being dubbed the Tooth Fairy and has already murdered and maimed two families. Crawford needs Graham on the case, because, quite simply, Graham is the best at what he does. After some contemplation, Graham agrees to take the case, leaving his wife Molly (Greist) and his son at home, in Florida. Eventually and much like Clarice Starling, Graham must force himself to visit Lecktor (Cox), so that he can get some ideas and so that he can regain his old way of thinking. The character of Lecktor doesn't have as prominent a role here as the Hopkins portrayal in "The Silence of the Lambs", but Cox plays him well, nonetheless.


Obviously it was going to take A LOT for me to dub "Manhunter" as a superior film to "The Silence of the Lambs" and while it wasn't THAT good, it was still a perfectly fine production. The cast represented an underutilized portion of Hollywood, that rarely (especially these days) get a chance to really show what they can do. You've got William Petersen, who would go on to CSI fame and who does a marvelous job as Graham here. Sure, he's got his fair share of cheesy lines ("It's just you and me now sport!"), but you can hardly fault him for that. You've got Dennis Farina, who works perfectly as the FBI superior and perhaps an even better Jack Crawford than Scott Glenn. Brian Cox is a fine Hannibal Lecktor and I only wish he'd had more screen time, because I think he really could've stolen the show. As it is, he barely had the opportunity (keep your eyes peeled for the scene where Lecktor makes an unauthorized phone call to a layer's office to get Graham's home address - "Well zip that little pointer right on down to the letter G". You've also got Joan Allen and Tom Noonan, the latter of played his role to a tee and succeeded in creeping me the F--- out.

If I had to nitpick (and you know I do), I'd say that things got a little too dark near the middle and end. I mean, I'm all for dark but if you're going to be a dark picture, then spread your darkness evenly throughout. The film started out as your basic detective movie, very cookie cutter and then we went a little too far down the rabbit hole and things just started to get a little too out there. It wasn't necessarily a bad thing, it just caught me off guard more than anything. Also, the plot got just a little too intricate for me. I think if they'd been able to keep things simpler and more succinct, it would've only made things a lot smoother. We get piece after piece, something about mirrors (which I don't think is ever fully explained), then the Red Dragon jargon and the correspondence with Lecktor and then for some reason, we never even see Lecktor again. Trust me, I'm just nitpicking, this IS a good flick.

However, as I already mentioned, it simply isn't AS GOOD as "The Silence of the Lambs". This film is rougher and grittier than and "Lambs" is just more polished and professional. This is like a poor man's "Lambs" and I mean that in the most positive way possible. The climax is extremely effective, with a "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" blasting and Will Graham making a pretty bad ass leap through a picture window. I'll stop now, because my thoughts are getting random and muddled, but this film gets a very easy thumbs upski!

RATING: 7/10  It's like I'm taking shots at a dartboard and I'm hitting high numbers, but I'll be damned if I just can't hit the bullseye! Let's see if lucky #50 can change that...I think it has a good shot!


October 11, 2012  5:22pm

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