Since watching the final season of the visually spectacular TV series “Hannibal”, the plot of “Red Dragon” has been rooted in my mind. I’d seen “Manhunter” once before around a decade ago. It was basically “new to me” again. I was watching with a first-time viewer who was not as versed in the Hannibal mythos, so hearing their thoughts helped round out my own opinion in preparation for this review.
“Manhunter”, directed by Michael Mann (“Thief”, “The Last of the Mohicans”) and starring William Petersen (“CSI: Crime Scene Investigation”), Dennis Farina (“Get Shorty”, “Law & Order”), Brian Cox (“Bug”, “Zodiac”) and Tom Noonan (“Robocop 2”, “Last Action Hero”) follows ex-FBI profiler Will Graham (Petersen) as he dives back into his physically and mentally demanding profession. His former colleague Jack Crawford (Farina) is having a difficult time with a new case involving the murder of two families by a fiend labelled “The Tooth Fairy” (Noonan). Graham enlists the help of the diabolical Dr. Hannibal Leckter (Cox), whom he helped put behind bars, to find the identity of the killer.
The score stood out the most to me as I am a huge lover of anything involving synthesizers. It was dreamy and atmospheric and totally 80’s. The cinematography was also interesting and unique in some of the framing of close-ups as well as wide shots. Mann’s trademark use of color and light was cool and reminiscent of the Italian “Giallo” film genre. For example, Graham’s wife and son were always dressed in white or lighter colors as if to represent the pure and untainted part of his life.
For all of the good in this movie, there are some not-so-good things. One problem is that the story is rushed. A budding relationship between Dollarhyde and film developer Reba (Joan Allen) is formed in a 10 minute timeframe that spanned over several episodes in the TV series. It could be confusing to those not as familiar with the material. I own the book the film is based on (“Red Dragon”) but can honestly not recall finishing it. I imagine the story flows much better in book form.
I appreciated Petersen’s mentally tortured version of Graham. I also enjoyed Cox’s stoic take on Hannibal the Cannibal, as well as Noonan’s horrifically awkward performance as Dollarhyde, whom I simultaneously felt sorry for and was repulsed by. Though it’s not perfect, “Manhunter” is worth watching for both fans of the Hannibal Lecter series and film in general. The story was allowed room to grow and breathe on television, where I feel it is most at home.
Overall rating: 7/10