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2 reviews

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Movie Details

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Directed By
Michael Mann

Written By:
Michael Mann

William Petersen, Kim Greist, Joan Allen, Brian Cox, Dennis Farina, Stephen Lang, Tom Noonan, David Seaman, Benjamin Hendrickson

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Manhunter (1986)
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Movie Review by Jarrod
July 6th, 2009

'Manhunter' was the original adaptation of Thomas Harris's novel Red Dragon, which introduced us to the diabolical Hannibal Lecter, or Lecktor, as his last name is spelled here. We do not learn much about Hannibal, except that he was once a renowned forensic psychiatrist, whom the FBI consulted on their more perplexing cases, working frequently with agent Will Graham (William Petersen), a brilliant crime scene analyst with an uncanny insight into the minds of serial killers.

This is a gift he certainly did not ask for, and it disturbs him greatly, but it allowed him to apprehend Lecktor, nicknamed Hannibal the Cannibal. His encounter with Lecktor nearly killed him, so he has entered a state of semi-retirement, with his wife Molly (Kim Greist), and their son.

His former boss, Jack Crawford (Dennis Farina), approaches him about the possibility of taking one last case, involving a ritualistic killer dubbed The Tooth Fairy, because he leaves distinctive bite marks on his victims, whom he seems to select at random. Two innocent families have been brutally murdered. Will is good at spotting patterns, and making connections other investigators fail to make. Even he gets stumped, however, and Crawford suggests that he collaborate with Lecktor once again, something Will is understandably hesitant to do.

Lecktor is played here by Brian Cox, a fine actor, but, try as I might, I cannot accept him in the role, even if he happen to originate it. I watched this after Silence of the Lambs, so I cannot identify Hannibal as anyone other than Anthony Hopkins, though Cox's interpretation of the character is extremely creepy, and apparently, truer to the source material. Cox has only a handful of scenes; Lecktor is not a raving lunatic, he toys with Will, and responds to his fan mail from the Tooth Fairy, who admires Lecktor.

The Tooth Fairy's identity is revealed; he is the shy Francis Dollarhyde (Tom Noonan), who believes he is hideously deformed, and falls in love with a blind co-worker, Reba McClane (Joan Allen). I pitied Francis at first, and then feared him; he does monstrous things, but monstrous things have also been done to him. The film, from Michael Mann, is a psychological thriller, that implies far more than it shows. Despite the subject matter, there is not much violence; Mann instead favors suspense, well-crafted suspense, and intensity, anticipation up to the moment when we finally see the Tooth Fairy for ourselves, and Noonan delivers a terrific performance, physically imposing, but also lonely and insecure, desiring love and companionship. Magnificently effective use of music.

Petersen is perfect as Will Graham, clever, and able to match with Lecktor, not easily manipulated or outsmarted, and haunted by his past experiences. He has been wounded by them, and would like to forget them, if only he could. I suppose this role was adequate preparation for what Petersen would do later in CSI. The movie is an exercise in nuance and restraint, never overly stylish, but maintaining an ominous atmosphere, immersing us in the sick world of Lecktor and Dollarhyde, but not overwhelming us.

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