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Author Topic: MANHUNTER  (Read 105 times)
Master of disaster

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« on: October 07, 2018, 05:15:26 PM »

Caught the first version of the Hannibal Lector story the other night on free tv (the movie suffers very little for this as it's fairly bloodless), and I was pleasantly surprised, as I didn't remember it fondly.

For those who've seen RED DRAGON or seen the NBC tv version will be familiar with the plot - a serial killer called "the tooth fairy" by tabloids is terrorizing the south by murdering entire families whenever there's a full moon.  The killer seeks to become "the red dragon" via some sort of insane transformation.  The police and FBI are helpless to stop him, so the FBI recruits Will Graham, the man who captured Hannibal Lector, back into the fray.

The movie is notable now primarily for 3 things - one is the brilliant performance by William Petersen as Will Graham.  He's the shinning star of this film - his character begins breaking down as he "inhabits" the tooth fairy's mind, slowly going mad both from trying to become the tooth fairy, and the pressure of stopping a monster.  His performance could have gone wrong so many ways as it's so hard to remain subtle over a long shoot, but he does it in style.  One of the great performances of the decade in a decade filled with them.  Petersen of course would go on to TV fame essentially playing the same character on CSI for 15 years.  

2nd, this film is in many ways a trial run for HEAT.  Very similar tone and style - which is no surprise as the same director of photography, Dante Spinotti, shot both films.  Heavy use of color schemes (blue for Petersen, green for the dragon), shimmering city-scapes at night, the use of actual locations instead of sets, heavy use of electronic score - all will remind the viewer of Mann's best film.

3rd, at least for me, shows what happened when you get everything right except for the villain.  To be clear, the Dragon is actually played very well by Tom Noonan, but Lector is a trainwreck.  That's because the normally very able Brian Cox just misses the mark.  He's a whiff.  Cox based his performance and look on Scottish serial killer Peter Manuel... which would be fine if this film was about Manuel.  But it's about a character who is the very top of the mountain of serial madmen; a character cultured and sophisticated and insanely violent.  Cox simply has neither of those traits in this film.  Mann doesn't help him much - the costume/makeup/hair and set is very pedestrian - but ultimately if either Hopkins or Mads Mikkelsen had been in the same situation, it would have worked.

Luckily, Hannibal is a relatively small character in the film, even smaller then in SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, so the damage is minimal.  At times the film feels dated, in no small part because shows like CSI and X-FILES made forensic profiling as common as getting a finger print.  The music is good, but incredibly '80s.  It's so '80's it almost feels like a modern film trying to recapture the '80s, like DRIVE does.  The music is also mixed a bit weirdly - there are times when it's very very loud, more loud then the tune necessary requires.

But it's def worth a watch (or re-watch as the case may be).  Petersen is just so good in the part, it's a cool story, and it's Michael Mann growing into greatness.  When Petersen's character finally cracks the case, not really because he's in the mind of the Dragon, but through insightful detective work (a fine difference perhaps, but important) it's a wonderful bit of business (helped mightily by the music cue).  The movie was a big influence on crime movies (LAMBS does takes cues from it, made only 5 years later) and remains a cult classic.

BOTTOM LINE:  4 "DC might want to think about hiring Michael Mann" out of 5 stars

« Last Edit: October 08, 2018, 02:57:17 PM by jdv » Logged

Master of disaster

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« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2018, 07:13:30 AM »

I love this movie.

It's one of those movies you watch every time its on.

Petersen is outstanding.

I know we've discussed it before, I like Brian Cox's Lecter a little more than you did.

But the comparison between his interpretation and Hopkins' is a little tilted because SOTL has SO much more Lecter in the story.  Cox is only in Manhunter for I think under 5 minutes, and the best part is his phone session with Petersen later in the movie which is isn't even on screen for.  The conversation ends up being pivotal not just to his solving the case, but also in coming to terms with Petersen's own demons, which is an underrated aspect of this movie.

I think the other aspect of the movie that I like so much is the procedural part, which dominates a lot of the action in the film.  Of course, Petersen's own career is heavily influenced by his work in this movie, as he was the star of CSI, which is a wildly popular show that's almost 100% procedural and is basically Manhunter TV.

The meetings, the phone calls, Dennis Farina's FBI Crawford, which granted is not as good as Scott Glenn's, but works in this movie.  All the procedures around these agents trying to head off a serial killer lends a lot of drama to the movie.

I love the soundtrack for this movie and its undeniable that Mann would carry this style of soundtrack design into Miami Vice.  Is it a bit dated?  Sure, but then again so is a lot from the 80's, so I don't hold it against the movie.

The beginning is scary.  Don't like the idea of a serial killer walking through the house.


"Assassin.  Sounds so exotic.  I was just a murderer." _ Richard "Iceman" Kulkinski
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