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I have a problem with a lot of people's review of "Manhunter". Every
bad review that criticizes Cox or Noonan invariably mentions the movie
Dragon" in the same breath. How about being a little objective?
On its own as the original Hannibal Lecter movie, Manhunter is a good movie. Cox plays Lecter convincingly, and you can read from other reviewers who praised his work shows that with a little objectivity we can see an alternative representation of Lecter. It is true, as one other reviewer says, Hopkins acts Lecter, Cox *IS* Lecter. Cox never seems to be acting, he really plays the part with mystery and ambiguity not like the distinctly maniacal Lecter that Hopkins portrays.
Cox plays a true psychopath - one devoid of feelings, and yet a consummate actor. Some of the world's best actors are in fact psychopaths. A psychopath is not necessarily a killer - a psychopath is simply someone who does not feel for other human beings, which is often why the psychopath killers of this world were in fact convincing actors - for example Geoffrey Dahmer and Charles Manson.
So when we analyze the profiles of true psychopathic serial killers, we can quite clearly see that Cox plays the better Lecter than Hopkins. We can see Cox is devoid of compassion, and yet acts like a normal person. Hopkins on the other hand, never passes the creepy stage - he is too creepy and doesn't have the "acting" ability of a true psychopath to mask that image from the public eye. Cox shows that he could blend into normality without being caught.
And therein lies the problem with the negative reviews. We read countless negative reviews of this movie bemoaning the fact that Cox is not as creepy as Hopkins - but my dears, that is exactly why Cox plays the better Lecter!
This will no doubt elicit howls of outrage, but I have always thought that Mr. Cox's portrayal of Hannibal Lector to be far superior to that of Mr Hopkins'. Mr Cox portrays Lector as someone coldly intellectual, almost reptilian and inhuman, while Mr Hopkins gives a performance that always brings to mind that of Ernest Thesiger as Dr. Pretorius in Bride of Frankenstein". Mind you, I really enjoy Ernest Thesiger as Dr. Pretorius; I'm just saying that the charming, witty and OH! so urbane serial killer has been done to death, and had been even when "Silence Of The Lambs" came out. Rent this video if you want to see how it's supposed to be done.
How many times have we heard "The film isn't as good as the book"? Let's
face it. What film IS?! Red Dragon was a masterpiece and so is
To appreciate that there are two issues. Firstly, the film was created in 1986. It's stylised and looks slightly dated. The soundtrack is excellent but again very 1980's. Secondly, Red Dragon was not an easy book to write a screenplay for. There is way too much information that made the book so enthralling to squeeze in to 2 hours.
The cinematography, in particular the clever use of light and colours, is breathtaking. The choice of locations was also very deliberate. The scene where Will is running out of the building after speaking to Hannibal Lecter. They chose a building with a long spiral ramp down. The ramp is white, clinical. Running down the ramp is like those dreams where the bad man is chasing you and you can't get away. Will runs his heart out but doesn't get very far.
I agree that Cox plays a different Lecter but then the book wasn't about Lecter. There was some mention made but Lecter in this film is very much a Cameo appearance. The way in which Will goes about catching the killer is every bit as clever as Starling's methods, if not more so. In addition, we are treated to the thoughts, the inner monologue, the frustration and triumph of a hunter.
Make no mistake, if you expect an up-to-date movie as good in every respect as the book, you'll be disappointed. If you're sensible and expect nothing more than 2 hours quality entertainment you'll enjoy this one.
I'm starting to think that I may be one of the only people who saw this film
when it was originally theatrically released! Years after that, as a
freshman in college, I was managing a video store when a woman came in
looking for the recently released `Silence of the Lambs.' She said she knew
William Petersen from childhood and told me that he was in THE first
Hannibal the Cannibal movie. Having not read the novel or seen the movie for
a while, I never related the two before that. But I specifically remembered
`Manhunter' for its creepy killer, spectacular use of Iron Butterfly, and
the strange & frightening notion (for then) of FBI profiling. These three
details alone speak volumes for the film's acting, style and writing. The
irony of forcing oneself to share the same maniacal thoughts as a killer in
order to catch them is the stuff of nightmares. Since reconnecting with
`Manhunter' back then, I've remained a constant fan of the
But the film suffers today in several ways. First off, any comparison to `Silence of the Lambs' is going to come up short. `Silence' is simply a better film a classic of the highest caliber that will continue to sustain itself with the passage of time. Those already acquainted with Jonathan Demme's world will probably have a hard time accepting `Manhunter.' But audiences should judge the film on its own merits, and recognize that unlike `Red Dragon' it was not designed to resemble an established world of a classic movie which is both a curse and an advantage for both films. I recently saw `Red Dragon,' by the way, and loved it. Walking out, I found myself asking whether I liked it better than `Manhunter.' These comparisons can get very silly because not only am I basing my impressions on a book, but also a previously filmed version and a closely related `sequel.' Best method: let each stand alone, THEN decide if either was successful. Both films succeed for similar and different reasons.
The approach of `Manhunter' is much more cold and observational than `Red Dragon.' This style (often concerned with widely symmetrical composition), like Kubrick's, can greatly benefit the story if used properly. I really liked it here. The neatness and sterility of the 80s décor also works perfectly in this format, providing a nice contrast to the horrors sometimes contained within its walls.
As for the music, it has not aged well. The synthesized stuff in the first hour is effective at times (especially when it's just a single, sustained note a la John Carpenter, or those bits that sound like `Blade Runner'), and the inclusion of In-a-Gadda-da-Vida is inspired, but the electronic balladry during Dolarhyde's romance is simply awful and detract from the scenes. Obviously, the danger of using such modern music is that it can become outdated and cheesy very quick. Is it just me, or does this especially seem true of 80s music? Given Michael Mann's career, he clearly wouldn't agree. I guess one never knows. The Tangerine Dream score for `Risky Business' or Phillip Glass' for `Thin Blue Line,' for example, still hold up remarkably well from this period.
The performances, however, are still wonderful. Petersen (whom I've heard didn't like the job he did) reaches just the right blend of seeming haunted, detached, morose, and as Dolarhyde describes him, purposeful. Dennis Farina, himself a former Chicago cop, exudes realistic authority as Jack Crawford. Tom Noonan obtains a disturbing childlike innocence and deliberation in his terror. And Brian Cox poor guy, will always be compared to Anthony Hopkins. It's unfair because he gives us a Lecter that is different, to be sure, but intelligent in a way that, to me, is more realistic, intriguing and ultimately frightening. Hopkins' Hannibal is so supremely horrible that he's practically supernatural at this point, not unlike Dracula or the Wolfman. I enjoy all of that too, but just on a different level.
I can only surmise that the detractors of this film are under 25, the new generation of cinema-goers who need all the ultra-violence and gore to make a film "complete". This is quite simply, one of the best films of all time. Tom Noonan is amazing and absolutely masterful in his portrayal of Dollarhyde, and even comes across as sensual, when he is obviously deriving sexual satisfaction watching Reba fondle the sleeping tiger. One of the sexiest scenes ever, by the way. This is what I think people who don't "get" this film are missing, the little nuances, such as his look of sexual ecstasy watching Reba with the tiger, you can see he is imagining himself in the tigers position, being the recipient of loving caresses. And his awkwardness when Reba finally makes love to him, its all these things that you actually have to engage your brain to understand, thats where people just don't understand this film. The music is incredible, especially Shriekbacks "This Big Hush", where Dollarhyde is in bed with Reba, is just inspired. William Petersen was born to play Will Graham, the tormented retired forensic cop, brought out of retirement by the Tooth Fairy's slayings of whole families. Brian Cox's portrayal of LECKTOR is superb, playing the "straight man" to Hopkins "over the top" campness. I cant understand why Cox didn't play the proper Lecktor role in the subsequent films. But thats what people don't get-its not about Lecktor. Its not about Red Dragon. It is BASED on the novel Red Dragon, which is why it doesn't follow the book ad verbatim. Don't watch this as a prequel or sequel, watch it on its own merit as one of the best films ever made.
Besides the fact that it was released without much hoopla in 1986, and that it was recently remade(the same exact movie except for the end) as Red Dragon, Manhunter is undoubtedly the most overlooked movie of the past 20 years. The plot is tremendous, Mann's direction is outstanding, and the acting(especially Noonan) is equally amazing. What Mann realized while making this film is that a thriller was not just meant to shock and disgust the audience but to develop the characters carefully so that there is an even greater sense of anticipation for the climax of the movie than there otherwise would be. Recent thrillers are clearly lacking in the character development that made movies like Manhunter and Silence of the Lambs so good. Its a shame that Red Dragon had to be made, since it is basically a strait ripoff of Manhunter except for a different ending which is much worse than the original and way too predictable. Anyone who thinks Red Dragon was a good movie should watch Manhunter and compare the two. If you try this you'll see that there is no comparison. Tom Noonan's performance alone is worth the watch.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I've read 'Red Dragon' many, many times, and it is one of my favorite
novels ever...and, as is, is virtually unfilmable. The centerpiece of
the book is a long, detailed flashback detailing the motives (and
practically the entire life) of the killer; it's the kind of thing you
can get away with in print, but in a movie it'd stop the story dead.
And so, alas, it's completely absent here. Too much background material
is jettisoned in the translation and too much time is spent on Will
Graham, the policeman in pursuit, for this to come close to the
brilliant novel it's based on, but it's honestly about as good a movie
as could have been made from this material.
The best thing about this is the acting: William Petersen is occasionally a little wooden as Graham (and no one, really, could stand there and talk to himself in lines that were silent thoughts in the book) but appropriately haggard and obsessed. Kim Griest, one of the best near-forgotten actresses of the eighties, captures the character of Graham's wife perfectly, and Tom Noonan is fascinating and frightening in equal measures as the Red Dragon (no mean feat, when we never really find out why he's doing what he's doing). Joan Allen does a good turn as a blind woman he falls in love with, in a relationship so obviously doomed that it causes suspense just by existing. Dennis Farina is his usual solid self as Petersen's superior. Altogether, the cast does its best to convey characterizations with the minimum of information the film actually has, and do very well.
The film itself is about as stylish and eighties-era as you'd expect from Michael Mann, and in the 'Miami Vice' style leans on using songs (rather than a score) for some big moments, but while it's dated it's not gratuitous, and everything fits pretty well. It's a bit low-budget, but at times this makes it harsher and more frightening than it might have been; now that this has been remade as a more expensive, slicker production, it's easier to see that sometimes less is more. Don't look for nearly as compelling or rich a story as in the novel, but if pure atmosphere does it for you, this will do it for you.
As I watched Manhunter the first time I kept thinking something about it
seemed familiar. From the credits I discovered it was from Red Dragon by
Thomas Harris, a book I had read.
William Peterson plays the enigmatic FBI agent Will Graham, who has left the job after almost being killed by Hannibal Lechter, but who is now coaxed back to help catch a killer who is murdering whole families in different locations in the United States.
I enjoyed Brian Cox as Lechter. He displays the "normal" quality of Lechter which allowed him to go undetected for so long before being arrested and receiving the moniker, "Hannibal the Cannibal". Perhaps because I saw Manhunter before Silence of the Lambs, I prefer Cox to Anthony Hopkins in the role.
The Freddy Lounds character is the stereotypical reporter you love to hate. He's in Graham's face and as obnoxious as they come. You almost root for something bad to happen to him.
Tom Noonan is delightful as the quiet Francis Dolarhyde. He's the loner that no one notices. I pitied him, then I feared him.
I recommend this film for those who enjoy suspense with a bit of a horror twist. It's not a horror film, but some of the elements are there. There is also a good soundtrack.
This movie is basically the prequel to "Silence of the Lambs". It received
nowhere near as much attention, nor any Academy Awards, but nonetheless, as
a purely scary movie, it is the better of the two. Hannibal Lecter isn't as
memorable, nor as well acted, but he's more real, more frightening. Unlike
in SOTL, he is a direct threat to the principal good guy, in that he nearly
killed FBI agent Will Graham and drove him to near madness. Graham is the
man responsible for capturing Lecter, but to do so, he had to get further
inside Lecter's head than is safe for sane humans, and throughout the film
we fear that he, in pursuit of a new serial killer, is in grave danger of
losing his sanity in the process.
To add to the terror, Lecter is playing his mind games, while supposedly helping Graham, he is also secretly in cahoots with the killer, known only as the "tooth fairy". Aside from dealing with the physical and psychological dangers presented by Lecter, Graham must also try to reconstruct the mindset of the killer, and this provides the real drama of this film. He is a man on the edge, he's been through psychological hell thanks to Lecter and wants nothing more than to live in peace with his wife and son, but when his old boss Jack Crawford enlists his help, showing him photos of the murdered families, he cannot refuse. And throughout the entire film we are drawn into his struggle, the battle between his unique genius for seeing into the minds of psychotic serial killers versus his desire to maintain his sanity, protect his family, and simply lead a normal life. As such, Graham is a far more compelling character than was Jodie Foster's Agent Starling. Although this movie has its flaws (chiefly, a "Miami Vice" like reliance on its music soundtrack) it is a genuinely frightening psychological thriller that is definitely more scary than its more famous and critically acclaimed successor.
Retired FBI specialist Will Graham is lured back into action to track a
serial killer who is killing families, seemingly linked into the lunar
cycle. In the process it opens up some old mental wounds that were born
out during his last action out in the field...
Before the gargantuan success of Silence of the Lambs, where the name Hannibal the Cannibal moved into pop culture, and before director Michael Mann became a name auteur, often referenced with relish by hungry film students; there was Manhunter, Michael Mann's brilliant adaptation of Thomas Harris' equally brilliant psychological thriller, Red Dragon. It feels a bit redundant now, years later, writing about Mann's use of styles to bear out mood and psychological states, his framing devices, his commitment to his craft, but after revisiting the film on Blu-ray, I find myself once again simultaneously invigorated and unnerved by the magnificence of Manhunter. Visually, thematically and narratively it remains a clinical piece of cinema, a probing study of madness that dares to put a serial killer and the man hunting him in the same psychological body, asking us, as well as William Petersen's FBI agent Will Graham, to empathise with Tom Noonan's troubled Tooth Fairy killer. Here's a thing, too, Francis Dolarhyde (The Tooth Fairy) is a functioning member of society, he is quite frankly a man who could be working in a shop near you! This is no reclusive psychopath such as, well, Buffalo Bill, Dolarhyde is presented to us in such a way as we are given insight into this damaged mind, he is fleshed out as a person, we get to know him and his motivational problems.
Dream much, Will?
Mann and his team are not about over the top or camp performances, gore is kept to a premium, the real horror is shown in aftermath sequences, conversations and harmless photographs, but still it's a nightmarish world. Suspense is wrung out slowly by way of the characterisations. Will has to become the killer, and it's dangerous, he knows so because he has done it before, when capturing Dr. Hannibal Lecktor. Needing to pick up the scent again, to recover the mindset, Will has to go see the good doctor who has a penchant for fine wines and human offal. These scenes showcase Mann at his deadliest, a bright white cell filmed off kilter, each frame switch showing either Lecktor or Graham behind bars, they are one. When Lecktor taunts Will about them being alike, Mann understands this and visually brings it out. Dolarhyde's living abode is murky in colour tones and furnished garishly, and with mirrors, paintings and a lunar landscape, yet when Dolarhyde is accompanied by Joan Allen's blind Reba, where he feels he is finally finding acceptance, this house is seen at ease because of the characterisations. Switch to the finale and it's a walled monstrosity matching that of a killer tipped back over the edge. Brilliant stuff.
If one does what God does enough times, one will become as God is.
Lecktor, soon to be back as the source material Lecter in the film versions that follow, is actually not in the film that much. Brian Cox (chilling, calculating, frightening and intelligent) as Lecktor gets under ten minutes of screen time, but that's enough, the character's presence is felt throughout the picture in a number of ways. The Lecktor angle is very relative to film's success, but very much it's one strand of a compelling whole, I realise now that Mann has deliberately kept us wanting more of him visually. Noonan is truly scary, he lived away from the rest of the cast during filming, with Mann's joyous encouragement, the end result is one of the best and most complex serial killer characterisations ever. Lang scores high as weasel paparazzi, Allen is heart achingly effective without patronising blind people and Farina is a huge presence as Jack Crawford, Will's friend and boss who coaxes Will back into the fray knowing full well that Will's mind might not make it back with him. But it's Petersen's movie all the way. His subsequent non film career has given ammunition to his knockers that he is no great actor. Rubbish, with this and To Live and Die in L.A. he gave two of the best crime film portrayals of the 80s. He immerses himself in Will Graham, so much so he wasn't able to shake the character off long after filming had wrapped. There's a scene in a supermarket where Will is explaining to his son about his dark place, where "the ugliest thoughts in the world" live, a stunning sequence of acting and a showcase for Petersen's undoubted talents.
Newcomers to the film and Mann's work in general, could do no worse than spend the ten minutes it takes to watch the Dante Spinotti feature on the disc. Apart from saving me the time to write about Mann's visual flourishes, it gives one an idea of just how key a director and cinematographer partnership is in a film such as this. The audio is crisp, which keeps alive the perfect in tone soundtrack and eerie scoring strains of Rubini and The Reds. Some say that the music of Manhunter is dated? I say that if it sits at one with the tonal shifts and thematics of a story then that surely can never be viewed as dated. And that's the case here in Manhunter. The director's cut is included as part of the package but the transfer is appalling, and for the sake of one cut scene that happens post the Dolarhyde/Graham face off, there's really not much to the DC version anyway. The theatrical cut is perfect, brilliantly realised on Blu-ray to birth a true visual neo-noir masterpiece. 10/10
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