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Manhunter (1986)
Written by: The Arrow
Director: Michael Mann

Starring:
William Petersen/Graham
Tom Noonan/Francis
Joan Allen/Reba
Brian Cox/Lecter
8 10
PLOT-CRUNCH
A sicko family killer nicknamed “The Toothfairy” (Noonan) is on the loose and the cops are as clueless as usual. So the FBI bring in champ “profiler” Graham (Petersen), the man notorious for having nabbed the infamous Hannibal Lecter (Cox). Graham goes on the hunt with his mind, gun and 6 o'clock shadow as weapons with lots of sly new-age music as back up. Michael Mann…YOU ROCK!
THE LOWDOWN
Lecter: Then how did you catch me? Graham: You had disadvantages. Lecter: What disadvantages? Graham: You're insane.

After watching the second cinematic take on the novel “Red Dragon”, I felt compelled to re-visit the film that came first; which is Michael Mann’s underrated gem “Manhunter”. Damn it felt great to re-enter a world where chain-smoking, trendy wear and impeccably maintained 6 o'clock shadows were the fad and I’m happy to report that for my pointy ass, this 80’s bad-boy didn’t feel as dated as I thought it would. It was a much more rewarding viewing experience than the stale "Red Dragon" remake, that’s for sure.

What I particularly liked about "Manhunter" is that for the first hour it focuses mainly on the investigation at hand and the hunter behind it. Not seeing or really knowing much about the” The Toothfairy” as he does his dirty deeds brought so much mystery to the investigation aspect of the narrative. Learning about the loon’s actions through the hero’s thoughts and interior monologues involved me to a ludicrous degree. Also, the fact that Graham investigated the crimes after the fact gave my imagination the chance to run wild. Hearing the details of the murders from his mouth provided an opportunity to paint a more gruesome scenario than any image shown.

Relationship-wise, “Manhunter” covered all of its bases to a satisfying degree and all of the human interaction was given the proper time to be substantial without ever giving me the feeling that the film was “dwelling” on anything. Be it Graham and his family, the killer and his blind maiden, Graham and Lecter or just Graham himself, working solo. Every subplot was given the time to shine and allowed me to give a rat’s ass about everything and everybody.

Acting-wise, William Petersen captured the dark state of Graham’s being perfectly. To be honest, he was helped by his way kool beard, his intense stare and the chain-smoking (elements that always work in the “noir” department). The character of Hannibal Lecter, the role made famous by Anthony Hopkins, was also thankfully left in the background where he belonged. Hannibal is there to support the story not BE the story and although I loved Hopkins’ rendition of the meat “connoisseur”, I appreciated Cox’s more subtle and realistic rendition of the famed killer as well. You won’t find any quips about having “somebody for dinner” in here (actually they never address him as being a cannibal). Cox played the madman as a methodological, calculating loon with a god complex. Nothing more, nothing less.

The same can be said in regards to the “Toothfairy” (Noonan). Unlike “Red Dragon”, we’re not given much in terms of background info on the man; we therefore get to judge the character on who he is NOW and what he does NOW. Tom Noonan gives an astounding performance, evoking both fear and semi-sympathy through his controlled show. His “gentle” giant physical demeanor also worked in the part’s favor, giving him a unique and eventually very frightening look. I wouldn’t want to meet this guy in a dark S&M club where fisting is allowed.

Then there’s the gripping atmosphere and the slick music which basically elevated this now somewhat “familiar” tale to a higher level. The cinematography, in particular was breathtaking. Be it the eye-catching beach scenery, the art deco households, the clinically white surroundings or the often used blue lighting, this flick looked bubbalisciouly good, almost like a constant dream. It was quite a different type of feel for a “serial killer” entry and it made the picture feel fresh.

Now I’ve heard many people complain about the ending here, being that it is different than the one in the book. Fortunately for me, I haven’t read the book so I couldn’t give a hooker's ass about the ending in it. The cap-off in "Manhunter" succeeded in having me sit up and pay mucho attention. Can you really go wrong with the tune In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida, a slow motion window crash and a shotgun rampage? Not in my book of fun times! Shite, the shot where the killer burst through a poster of a rocky surrounding, shotgun in hand, was alone better than the first hour of "Red Dragon". It gave me the fucking goose bumps. Wow!

Do I have any complaints about this baby? Some, but they are few. First off, yes, some of the dialogue was dated. When the big tough cop referred to the killer as “sport” I nearly giggled myself to oblivion. The score was also a tad overwhelming at times, but I was able to deal with it, it never became distracting enough to really be an issue. We also got a couple of awkward cuts editing-wise near the end. They took me out of the film for a micro-second, but I’d always get back in there. Last but not least, I wished the finale was a little bit longer, maybe more bloodshed, more shotgun fun…I don’t know. But maybe that's just me being greedy.

All in all, “Manhunter” lived up to all the other times I’ve watched it. This flick is tight, well-shot, compelling, gripping with a unique directorial and audio stamp that differentiates it from its peers. Basically, it's everything “Red Dragon” wasn’t. In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida motherfuckers!
GORE
Not much in this department. We get blood splashes on the walls and gunshot wounds. Does a man being lit on fire count as gore?
ACTING
William Petersen (Graham) was all 5.0. kool while putting out a strong show. You just can’t go wrong with this dude as a lead. Before Dennis Farina (Crawford) became a parody of himself (a funny parody at that) he used to be a solid actor. He displayed that here. Tom Noonan (Toothfairy) was, quite frankly, chilling as the soft spoken killer. Noonan gave a psychological and physical performance that blew my gloves off. Joan Allen (Reba) did fine as the blind girl with the crush on the nut. Man, she used to be quite sexy. Brian Cox (Lecter) gave a more grounded performance than Hopkins and therefore dare I say…made him scarier? I said it.
T & A
William Petersen and Tom Noonan go shirtless for the ladies and we get William Petersen and Tom Noonan going shirtless for the ladies.
DIRECTING
Mann goes all out here, using sly camera angles that echoed his characters’ state of mind, surreal lighting, a beautiful use of slow motion and shadow play. This flick is a sweet visual peach. Dig in!
SOUNDTRACK
Michael Rubini, Kitaro, Shriekback, The Reds and a fucking badass use of In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida by Iron Butterfly. FUCK YEAH!
BOTTOM LINE
Watching “Manhunter” after having seen “Silence of the Lambs” and “Red Dragon”, I have to admit that the plot felt very familiar. But where “Manhunter” prevailed was is in its execution. Not only did the film stand out on a visual and audio standpoint, but it also focused on what mattered: the cop and his investigation. That made this film such a captivating show to witness and in my book, it succeeded in everything that “Red Dragon” failed. There’s the “Hannibal” trilogy and then there’s “Manhunter”. They are both separate entities in my eyes and that’s the way I like it. I’ll have one “Manhunter” on the freaking rocks please!!
BULL'S EYE
An alternate ending to "Manhunter" exists where Graham visits the family that would’ve been next on the Toothfairy’s hit list if he wouldn’t have been stopped.

This flick is based on Thomas Harris’ book “Red Dragon”. Another cinematic adaptation of the novel exists in Brett Ratner’s TV movie-like “Red Dragon”.
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12:40AM on 06/19/2010
I honestly don't get the love for this movie. While well made, its very, very dull and lacks any true suspense for most of the runtime.
I honestly don't get the love for this movie. While well made, its very, very dull and lacks any true suspense for most of the runtime.
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+0
7:27AM on 01/13/2008

I Love Michael Mann...but this isn't the best.

First off let me say that I was only six years old when this came out, so I'm going to admit that certain things (soundtrack, costumes) I didn't dig. Overrall a decent film but Silence still holds the key to my heart in this series. Anthony Hopkins is unmatched as Hannibal Lecter. Cox did ok but was too 'sane' for Hannibal Lecter. Noonan was convincing but what was with the panty hose over half his face? And the ending was very anti-climatic. Mann's later work was eons better than this.
First off let me say that I was only six years old when this came out, so I'm going to admit that certain things (soundtrack, costumes) I didn't dig. Overrall a decent film but Silence still holds the key to my heart in this series. Anthony Hopkins is unmatched as Hannibal Lecter. Cox did ok but was too 'sane' for Hannibal Lecter. Noonan was convincing but what was with the panty hose over half his face? And the ending was very anti-climatic. Mann's later work was eons better than this. Ok way to kill two hours.
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