You may not be aware, but before Anthony Hopkins won an Academy Award for his portrayal as one of the most iconically disturbing villains as Hannibal Lector, Brian Cox superbly portrayed the character first in MANHUNTER. While Cox and the film never found box office success the film is an intriguing and exciting look into the psychological hunt of a serial killer.
The serial killer (Tom Noonan) nicknamed The Tooth Fairy breaks into homes, murders the entire family and replaces their eyes with pieces of glass. Disturbing to say the least. In order to catch the insane psychopath, the FBI enlists Will Graham (William Petersen) a former agent who has a knack for getting into the mindset of the killers he is trying to find. To help get his head into this unsettling and unhealthy place, Graham revisits the heavily guarded prisoner and psychologically brilliant but calmly insane Dr. Lecktor (later to be renamed Lector following the original novel) to help with the case. Hopefully, The Tooth Fairy can be stopped before he murders his next victim.
Picking up clues and using sound logical judgment, MANHUNTER succeeds in its suspenseful detective work where the audience is able to learn with Graham as he spirals down a dark path. It doesn’t hurt that the mystery trying to be unraveled is the workings of a cleverly morbid killer. Petersen who found bigger success in CSI does a fine job embodying someone with strong leadership qualities while battling a confliction of being the “good guy” but still understanding the dark nature of the killer. However, Graham’s constant talking to himself as he went through the step-by-step process of the evildoers was laughable. I blame this amateurish tactic more on the direction, however Petersen didn’t soften the cheesy blow with some over-the-top acting as he yells in disgust to no one. In a couple of supporting roles, Joan Allen (THE CONTENDER, BOURNE ULTIMATUM) plays a blind woman who is unknowingly being courted by the killer and Stephen Lang (AVATAR, CONAN THE BARBARIAN) is unrecognizable as a sleazy reporter getting too close to the case.
Director Michael Mann (HEAT, THE INSIDER, COLLATERAL) does a solid job telling the story but his techniques toward the end become more of a distraction. The quick cut editing seemed out of place and poorly executed through the final actions of the film. And the 80’s musical tech rock and some of the haircuts and outfits really date the film, although “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” by Iron Butterfly is a nice musical touch.
Based on the novel Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, MANHUNTER is the first of the series of books the author wrote featuring the famously twisted character Hannibal Lector. While his presence is memorable, he isn’t in this film much. But this film isn’t about him; it’s an exciting psychological thriller about a detective tracking a killer. However, the Blu-ray quality on this specific transfer is not the best. So if you have the DVD, there is no reason to upgrade. This film was remade in 2002 by Brett Ratner (in my opinion a lesser director) using the original title RED DRAGON starring Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes and Hopkins. And how much it pains me to say this, RED DRAGON did improve upon the film. That is nothing against the actors and more against the dated atmosphere and distracting director choices. But if you are a fan of SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (one of my all time favorite films), HANNIBAL, RED DRAGON or even the abysmal HANNIBAL RISING, I suggest giving MANHUNTER a chance.
Video: (Widescreen 2.35:1) It’s clean but the whole picture still looks dated and muted.
Audio: (5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio) The sound is decent but a couple of scenes appear to be vocally tracked over not matching up.