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(1986)

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A positive review!
Kris Didymus15 October 2001
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 Manhunter.

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.
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10/10
Recover the mindset.
Spikeopath17 June 2012
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 named 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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8/10
What? No Tattoos?!
billymac7214 October 2002
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 film.

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.

8/10
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8/10
Basically the most underrated thriller of all time.
Jusgure21 June 2005
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.
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Blasphemous opinion
kevin-1861 December 2002
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.
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Imperfect but absorbing
enfilmigult11 May 2000
Warning: 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.
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Pretty Good!
tony-clifton21 April 2003
I have a problem with a lot of people's review of "Manhunter". Every single bad review that criticizes Cox or Noonan invariably mentions the movie "Red 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!
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Suspenseful and fun
justmjw26 November 2002
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.
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10/10
are you all crazy?
judithlaib200025 April 2006
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.
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10/10
The best film of its genre
Derek Charles24 October 2010
Manhunter is the best 'serial killer' genre film I've seen to date. It covers the 'serial killer' phenomenon from all possible angles - from the killings themselves and the motives of the killer, to the manhunt and the effects it has on the agents tracking the killer. Each of these four angles could themselves be the sole premise for such a film and it's to Mann's credit that he not only manages to deal with each of these angles in a substantive manner but also skilfully weaves them together into a coherent story.

The film moves at a steady pace and, while always conveying the urgency of the characters' actions, it never feels rushed. The process of tracking the killer is shown to us in meticulous detail right down to the unspoken rivalry and/or contempt that the different branches of the law enforcement system have for each other. And it's this last point that touches on that which makes Manhunter so clever and in my opinion better than the book itself.

Everything important in Manhunter is subtly hinted at so it's left up to the audience to infer: Graham's ability to track serial killers (he's half-way there himself); relatedly, Graham's motives for choosing Lounds to lure the killer (whether he was aware of them or not); Dolarhyde's disgust/insecurity at his own physical appearance (and the root of his desire to kill). This is the true brilliance of Manhunter. Rather than force-feeding the audience, Mann recognises that the characters in this film are driven by their ability or inability to deal with their own psyches. The subject matter is therefore subjective and should never be clear-cut enough so that it can be explained in black and white.

For those who say that there was too much focus on Graham and that the book focused mainly on the tooth-fairy, I will remind you of the film's title and to recognise the differences between this title and the book's. Mann quite rightly went his own way with the film. I've always felt that there's very little artistic merit in reproducing a book in film form - that's one step up from listening to a book read out on a tape.

While on the subject of reproducing the book in film form, I'm unfortunately obliged to mention the more recent Red Dragon film. I noted that this far inferior film actually has a higher rating than Manhunter and it makes me laugh that a film so formulaic, coarse, and obvious (on all levels) should be held in higher esteem. But I suppose it stands to reason that if babies like drinking formula they want the same thing from their films.

Manhunter is not just a technical masterclass in direction and writing but also in acting. Each character is fully drawn out by the actors and they each relate to the different characters in consistently different ways. Peterson has never been better as the introspective lead investigator who innately empathises with these killers and so understands how their profound insecurities can lead to murder. The progression of his character throughout the film is believable and quite expertly conveys to us his desperate attempt to separate himself from 'his man'. Farina is, as always, brilliant and as much as I'm a fan of Scott Glenn, the former's Jack Crawford is the grittier and more hard-edged. With every glance and eye-movement, Farina brings to bear his first-hand knowledge of what it is to be a cop doing his job under time pressure.

Standing out from this excellent ensemble is of course Brian Cox as Lecktor. While there is some merit to Anthony Hopkin's unfortunately more renowned portrayal of the same character, his is undeniably a caricature of a serial killer and, therefore, not realistic at all. A serial killer must appear to be, by definition,a very normal person - that's how he manages to kill a 'series' of people as opposed to just one and then being caught! My problem with Hopkin's Lecktor is that he is quite clearly not fully there in the head and so even the rawest recruit from the FBI down to the Cub Scouts would be able to pick him out as suspect no. 1. Cox gives us something entirely different. His Lecktor is smart, charming, and beneath the surface empty, devoid of sentiment and compassion. Again, it's to Mann's, and the actor's credit that, by the time his three scenes are done with, we have an implicit feeling as to what may be driving this Lecktor as well as an uncomfortable liking for him.

Three stand-out sequences to look for: 1) the 'walk-through' of the tooth-fairy's letter through the forensic process. Not a quick, flashy cut in sight. Instead we have a patient almost soothing series of scenes that convey exactly what the different forensic specialists do better than any film before it or since (yes, they each have their own departments and there is not one indication that Jimmy Price and co. carry a gun, let alone go tracking down the killers themselves!). 2) Graham's visit with Lecktor. A dream-like sequence where the two play the best mental game of chess I can remember seeing in a film. 3) Dollarhyde encountering Reba. Michael Mann at his best shows us in three scenes how the fantasy-driven psychosis of a serial killer can be shattered to the point that the real person beneath is partially and briefly exposed.

File under 'Masterclass'.
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Mann's first masterpiece?
tieman642 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Michael Mann directs "Manhunter", a 1986 thriller which sees actor William Petersen playing an FBI specialist tasked with tracking down a serial killer. The film was based on Thomas Harris' "Red Dragon", the prequel to "Silence of the Lambs".

Though he directed "Thief" some years earlier, it was with "Manhunter" that Mann's distinct style first appeared. This style, which I call "Armani decorum", seems to have a preference for clean, uncluttered compositions. Elsewhere Mann trades the "old noir" look of "Thief" - with its dirty alleyways and grimy, rain swept cities - for 1950's modernism, block colours, expansive glass panes, geometric divisions and contemporary, linear houses.

With "Manhunter" we also see Mann's first experimentations with colour. Consider the sterile whites assigned to master criminal Hannibal Lecter, the sick green hues of the Tooth Fairy's home (the film's serial killer) or the cool blues of our hero's bedroom (watch how blues slowly turn to whites when we investigate a crime scene).

All these stylistic traits lend Mann's films a unique look. Rooms are divided into flat surfaces, characters are dressed in pastels, scenes are assigned panels of light, compositions are inspired by Alex Colville and Edward Hopper and buildings are relentlessly modernist, with fluorescent bulbs and geometrical, flat surfaces.

The shooting locations are carefully chosen as well. Atlanta's Museum of High Art acts as a sand-in for a prison, artist Robert Rauschenberg's home is used prominently, and the stylish Marriott Marquis hotel pops up several times.

Like Antonioni, Mann uses architecture and urban settings to emphasise, not only the psychology, but the alienation of his characters. His characters seem as hollow as the surrounding decor, and are always gazing, somewhat naively, out toward some fantasy horizon. Like the heroes demonstrate in "Thief" and "Collateral", this fantasy always takes the form of a simple beach or ocean. Mann treats water as a kind of tranquil haven, a sense of serenity which his characters aspire to but which remains forever out of reach.

And of course windows and glass feature prominently in Mann's films. They act as a container or insulator, the "noir cages" of early film noirs, with their brick walls, dark shadows, cramped spaces, iron bars and tiny windows, neatly transformed into an aesthetic of vast window panes and transparent sheets; commit a crime and the whole world is made of glass.

In this way, Mann seems to have reversed the very aesthetics of noir. He has re-imagined noir, transforming clutter, confinement and darkness into a world of slick neons, expansive spaces and transparent walls.

These glass windows/walls seem to themselves pop up frequently throughout Mann's filmography. They induce a sense of paranoia, his characters always under observation, suspicion and/or vulnerably exposed. They also provide little protection, offer only false security and of course allow his characters to gaze longingly out at that distant horizon. Think those fleeting gazes in "Miami Vice", "Heat" and "Manhunter"; glass facilitates the existentialist's desire for escape.

And so "glass" plays a big role in "Manhunter". Indeed, The Tooth Fairy specifically preys on homes with large glass windows. These windows allow him to spy on the inhabitants inside. Once he kills his targets, he then places shards in their eye sockets. Toward the end of the film, our hero then dramatically breaks through a plane of glass, entering the inner sanctum of The Tooth Fairy and finally confronting that which he has been trying to keep at a distance throughout the film.

Narrativewise, "Manhunter" adheres to genre conventions. It does one interesting thing, however. The film's hero, Will Graham, spends most of his time attempting to delve into the mind of his opponent. By "becoming the killer" and "entering his darkness", Will is able to understand The Tooth Fairy and effectively hunt him down. But in becoming that which he hates, Will only distances himself further from humanity and further from those he loves.

While Will falls further and further into this abyss of "evil", The Tooth Fairy begins to re-connect with humanity. He falls in love with a blind woman and for the first time in his life experiences a "normal" human relationship. So on one hand we have a good man spiralling into darkness, and on the other we have a serial killer climbing back towards humanity. The implication, of course, is that if the monster is capable of being a man, then so too must monstrosities lie within Graham.

A braver film would have really delved into these issues, would have focused more on the Tooth Fairy's response to normality, but "Manhunter" ultimately resists humanizing the monster and seems content to keep things on a surface, superficial level. But then, Mann's story is itself preoccupied with surfaces, told more with music, mood and visuals, than dialogue.

The film's big flaw, though, is its lacklustre shoot out, in which Mann uses weird editing and jarring subliminal jump cuts. This scene was filmed with a skeleton crew on the final night of shooting and it really shows. But perhaps Mann is attempting some odd symbolism with this scene. Consider the way Will breaks through the glass, the way the shots are all shown twice and the way The Tooth Fairy dies in a pool of blood visually similar to William Blake's "Great Red Dragon". Perhaps the odd jump cuts signify that this event has happened twice; we know Will was similarly slashed in the past by Hannibal Lecter.

8.5/10 – Mann's minimalist visuals and music lend this film a unique edge. While later serial killer films ("Lambs", "Zodiac", "Seven") continue to fetishize a sense of Gothic darkness, "Manhunter" dares to paint a prison cell brilliant white. Incidentally, while these later serial killer flicks would prove influential on 90's TV (X-Files), "Manhunter" led to the birth of such flashy forensics shows as CSI (also starring William Petersen).
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Hannibal unglamorized
davidmccollum30 November 2002
This film reminds me of a deglamorized verison of the Hannibal films. IMO it has a more realistic view to it. Instead of the likable and friendly Ed Norton, we have the moody and intense William Petersen playing Will Graham. Brian Cox's Hannibal is just as clever as Anthony Hopkins' but not as charismatic. Thus, that makes him more realistic, instead of superhuman, like the character later becomes. Instead of a spooky dark basement prison as in Slience or Hannibal, we have an austure white cell. Ralph Fiennes' Dolarhyde is quiet to the point of being a mute and almost semi retarded almost. I can't see how the girl would be attacted to him (even if she is blind). Tom Noonhan's Dolarhyde is more amible and friendly. He actually speaks in a friendly voice, at times even being a normal person. Even the ending is more realistic. Instead of having a supspense full thilling end, it ends rather anti-climaticly...but thus is life.
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Faint Endorsement
mdana26 May 2002
I had to comment on this movie. I didn't see it when it originally was in the theaters. I have seen it on video twice. READ THE BOOK!! It is great. The movie takes many liberties with the plot, and I think it is worse for the discrepancies. However, on its own it is a pretty good movie. I don't care for Mann's directing skills. I think he was the biggest problem with the movie. Peterson, Noonan, Allan, and Farina are great. Allen was the closest thing to my visual interpretation of the character in the book to what was put on screen. Cox is actually quite good although much different from the Hopkins' performance (they are completely different roles). Cox get Lector's effiminate/gossipy persona down cold. I love the scene when he is talking to Graham and he curls his feet up like a teenage girl talking to her boyfriend. Noonan and Peterson are really amazing. I think if it had a better director it would have been huge, the plot was basically fool-proof. I think when it came out it would have rated a 8.5-9 rating. However, Silence was much better and the lighting and soundtrack have dated it poorly, so I would give it a 7 for today's viewing climate. Read the book, it is much better than Silence of the Lambs. Hopefully, the new movie will not change much from the book, but I doubt it.
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9/10
Scarier than "Lambs" ...
ericjg62319 November 2001
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.
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10/10
Moment of Truth
Galina3 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
"Manhunter" (1986) directed by Michael Mann - is a masterpiece, pure and simple. It took me five times but I finally realized it. I see it as the best adaptation of the favorite book written on the subject of serial killers and investigation of their crimes. I also discovered William Blake and his fascinating art, including the painting which gave the book its title, "Red Dragon", thanks to Mr. Harris. Michael Mann certainly read the book "Red Dragon" before he started to work on the movie and he was able to get inside of it as well as the book's main character, Will Graham was able to get inside a murderer's mind. The scene where Will Graham (William Peterson) finds out who the killer is makes me shiver every time I watch the movie. I can not recall another "moment of truth" as powerful and convincing as this one. It is more powerful that the similar scene in "The Sound Of The Lambs" where Clarise Starling figures out who and where the "Buffalo Bill" can be. Michael Mann took his time understanding how important the scene was and it received a royal treatment in the movie. I used to be disappointed that Mann cut the book's very impressive ending but after many viewings I think I understand why he did it. For me, the whole movie was a build up for the "moment of truth" scene and after Graham figured who the murderer was making us the participants of the process, it did not really matter (at least for me) how they were going to catch Francis "Red Dragon" Dolarhyde.
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8/10
Above Average Thriller
freemantle_uk10 February 2009
When watching Manhunter I was a little underwhelmed, I was hoping for more. Saying that it is above average and a solid serial killer/cop thriller.

Manhunter was based on the book Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, the first film about Hannibal Lector. and led to the films of Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, Red Dragon (a remake) and Hannibal Rising. This was Michael Mann's baby-steps into theatrical film making after television work, and led he to direct excellent films like The Last of the Mohians, Heat, the Insider and Collectial.

The plot of film was Will Graham (William Petersen), an expert profiler, who is called out of retired by the FBI to investigate a serial killer, the Tooth Fairy, who had brutally murdered two families in the Deep South of America. Graham is reluctant at first but he scene of duty makes him get involved with the case. After some early success, the case becomes stuck and the intelligence serial killer Hannibal Leckter (Brain Cox) is enlisted to help. Things take a further twist when the the Tooth Fairy starts to communicate with Leckter and the FBI investigation becomes a race against time because the Tooth Fairy kills his victims on the full moon.

The acting is top-notch. I thought William Petersen was better suited to the role of Will Graham then Ed Norton was. Brain Cox was chilling as Hannibal and did do well in the role, and overall I think Cox is a better actor then Anthony Hopkins. Other good actors were involved in this film, such as Joan Allen, Tom Noonan and Dennis Farina. The tone of the film was more understated then the other entries in the series, and realistic in performances. You get to see the psychological battle within Graham, but I thought the dream scene wasn't needed. Michael Mann also shows that he is a good set-piece director, to gun battle, to the attempted police set-up and the torture scene of a reporter. Some other aspects I like was you didn't get to see the Tooth Fairy until the middle of the film and you done get to see what drives him or even much about him. Compared to Red Dragon their is a scene when you hear the Tooth Fairy getting psychologically tortured by his guardian when he is doing weight and that felt clichéd. Also in Manhunter, it attempts to humanize the villain and show he was intelligence; like a serial killer in real life you most possibly wouldn't know of what he gets up to. However, watching the film, it felt a little heartless and therefore you lose some of the feelings of engagement with the characters and the events. Also, the soundtrack was awful.

Grade: B-
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10/10
The unforgettable debut of Hannibal Lecter
Amanda Scarlett6 November 2008
FBI Agent Will Graham (William Petersen, you have seen him on CSI) has captured the diabolical Dr. Hannibal Lecter or Lecktor (Brian Cox), nearly losing more than just his mind in the process. But when Graham is called out of retirement to hunt the psychopath known as "The Tooth Fairy" (Tom Noonan in a role Enternainment Weekly calls "one of the freakiest madmen Hollywood has ever given us") he must once again confront the horrors of "Hannibal The Cannibal". If Will Graham enters the mind of the serial killer, can he ever come back? Joan Allen (The contender), Dennis Farina, Kim Greist and Stephen Lang co-star in this shocking thriller directed by Michael Mann and adapted from the novel Red Dragon by Thomas Harris. But be warned: Fans, myself and critics alike consider MANHUNTER to be far superior to THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS...as well as one of the most unnerving serial killer movies ever made. Enjoy it. 10/10
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8/10
One of my top 5 best movies
KrowbOy7 February 2001
Michael Mann's 1986 adaption of the Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon now titled Manhunter is without a doubt one of the best thrillers (or can I say horror movies) ever made (I say horror because what else do you call movies about serial killers). Manhunter is a winner on every level, from directing (but what did you expect from Michael Mann), acting, and all the other major technical jobs. I actually think it's better than Silence of the Lambs because it involves you more with the characters and what goes into catching a killer thus making it that much more intense. Now don't get me wrong Silence of the Lambs is really good and Jonathan Demme did a great job but the only reason some think it is the superior Lecter movie is because it is the mainstream Lecter movie, but for that I applaud it (how many other movies has been loved by the public and won oscars yet has a guy sling jizz in a woman's face). Manhunter is, like all of Mann's movies, kinda artsy but thats also one of the things about his movies that make them so good. And no other directer except maybe Oliver Stone or David Lynch knows how to use music to set the mood better than Michael Mann, be it the score or songs in general. The performances in Manhunter are all good except William Petersen's and Tom Noonan's which were GREAT!!! William Petersen does a great job at showing the emotional toll the search for the killer has on him mentally, and I love the fact that he's a good guy with a kind of dark side in him. There is something in Petersen's face that to me really shows his determination in catching the "tooth fairy" and he really is an underrated actor who should have bigger roles than he does. Tom Noonan has made a career out of playing villians (at least until lately), the only ones that kinda stick out are The Ripper from Last Action Hero and Cain in Robocop 2. But those were typical bad guys and his performance as Francis Dollarhyde in Manhunter is hands down the best depiction of a serial killer ever. Now I say that without knowing anything about serial killers other than whats on the news and in books but I'm sure they have some feelings (nobody's totally evil) and Tom Noonan shows this in his performance. The killer is a cold blooded killer but has a human side that is shown once he meets Joan Allen's character. There were scenes between them that really showed (through Noonan's performance) how messed up Dollarhyde is, like when she is kissing him and they have sex there is this look of unease and being totally uncomfortable on his face that really help flesh out the character. Brian Cox, who played Lecter or actually Lecktor, does great with his performance also but this movie isn't about Lecter so he's only in it for 10 minutes at the most but does great with that time, his Lecter doesn't come off as being the embodiment of evil like the Hopkins performance but his Lecter is more of a sly, manipulitive character. Not that I'm saying he's better than Anthony Hopkins because Mr. Hopkins deserved everything he got because of his performance but different movies have different interpretations. The movie does leave out some things about Dollarhyde's past but I think they were not needed because Tom Noonan did enough on his part, but the ending does change a lot but then again after creating such a compelling character as Will Graham (one of my fave characters ever...right up there with William Sommerset from Se7en) I didn't want him to get mutilated and almost killed like in the books ending. Plus if you think the killer is dead yet there is some hesitation in that AND the killer knows where you live I don't think you would go back to that house with your wife and child like in the book....oh and the kid's name is changed from Willy to Kevin but Willy would sound so corny, can u imagine the scene where Kim Griest says "stay here with me...me and Kevin" being "stay here with me...me and Willy" you wouldn't be thinking of the scene itself u would be thinking "who the hell would name there child Willy". And the director's cut does add some more depth to the characters and the new scene at the end where Graham visits the family that was to be Dollarhyde's next victim's is really good, it's not all dialogue like "you saved our lives" and all that s**t, it's played in the character's face....there needed to be no dialogue for it. Manhunter is one of the best movies ever in my opinion and will ALWAYS be one of the best of it's sub-genre. Hat's off to Michael Mann and Anchor Bay for releasing that limited edition DVD. One more thing this movie has my fave line of dialogue from Lecter, the whole "have you ever seen blood in the moonlight" scene was cool.
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10/10
The most complete movie ever made
casablancan11 November 2003
I have looked through this movie 20 times and can't really find a single thing that is wrong. Maybe Will's dictation to himself in the victim's house is too pretentious but otherwise the whole thing is scarily good.

There is nothing heroic about it and the ending is about the best of all time in any movie.

Yes, the soundtrack is a bit silly in some places but at the final scene it is brilliant.

Moreover, this shows just how bad the movie producers are when they thought this one was bad and then went on to produce the other rubbish with Hopkins.

Never mind, this is sweet and pure.
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Stylishly-Made movie
jmorrison-219 April 2002
This is absolutely a Michael Mann movie. The slick pacing and the music lend to a somewhat spooky tone. This isn't "Silence of the Lambs", but stands pretty well on it's own. William Petersen is good as the FBI agent. The scene where he watches videos of the families, and slowly sees what the killer is seeing, what is driving him, and how he kills is worth seeing this for. Stephen Lang is plays a great slimy character, and Tom Noonan's character is appropriately terrifying. Good, underrated movie.
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9/10
A personal fave!
AlabamaWorley19718 June 2000
Sure, it kind of looks like a long MIAMI VICE episode, but once you get past that, you'll find one of the most involving thrillers of the last 20 years. William Petersen is excellent as Will Graham. My favorite device is how Will starts out his profile addressing the killer in the third person ("The house must have felt cool to him"), then moves to the second ("You stood here and watched them"), but it's only when he lets himself move to the first person ("I enter the house") that the solution becomes clear. It's a journey that he doesn't want to make, but he knows it's the only way to find this guy before he kills again. Brian Cox is excellent as Lecter (you have to love the phone trick); it's too bad he wasn't brought on for SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Might have sent his career into overdrive. The best sequence is the analysis of the Tooth Fairy's letter to Lecter at the lab. See if you can spot all the present-day TV stars! I count 3: the dad from LIFE GOES ON and Bletcher from the late lamented MILLENNIUM; Bulldog from FRASIER; and Chris Elliott, who now voices Dogbert on the DILBERT animated series!
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9/10
A stunning film
anirog8 February 2010
Manhunter is an amazing film, we as the audience are not treated as fools, not everything is fully explained or laid out, it contains no throw away dialogue in case we forgot what is going on, all is told through breathtaking imagery and acting, I do not have to see the gruesome details of horrific crimes in order for me to have an emotional response, like the classic shower scene from Hitchcock's Psycho a lot of what we see is implied, at first we only see a silhouette of the attacker we hardly see any blood, we don't see the knife puncture flesh, yet it is still disturbing and horrific.

William Petersen excels as the main agent working to track down this vicious serial killer nicknamed The Tooth Fairy, and Brian Cox gives a truly chilling performance.
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10/10
Fantastic Movie
joesomore23 September 2009
I just saw this movie 23 years after it was released and I have to say: WOW! The cast, the music and the flow of the movie takes you in and delivers one hell of a roller-coaster ride in slow motion. The movie guides you into and thru another world that is both comprehensive and convincing.

I remember reading the book after seeing Silence of the Lambs and it was a great story - what I would expect from this author, but I had no idea that there had been a movie made. This is obviously a small budget film but that does make it all the more appealing to me. The focus has to be on the acting and the plot and this movie shines because of it.

Best of all, there is no politically correct message crap that you have to filter your brain thru like most movies made today.

A huge THANK YOU to everyone involved in this movie for the great escape it gave me.

This will definitely rank in my top ten of all time favorites :)
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6/10
'Hannibal' Before He Became Famous
ccthemovieman-114 October 2006
This was the first look at Hannibal Lechter, but it really didn't have the impact of "Silence Of The Lambs" and the two subsequent movies also dealing with Lechter. Those - "Hannibal" and "Red Dragon" (a re-make of this movie) - all had Anthony Hopkins as the famous criminal. Hopkins "take" on the character was so memorable, so riveting that he made it his own. In this movie, Lechter is not memorable. Few people could tell you who played him in this film. The answer: Brian Cox.

That's not to say it's a bad film. It isn't, but it's no great shakes, either. The first half is very suspenseful but the second half of the movie is disappointing. It is interesting to look back now and see a young Bill Peterson in the lead. I am used to seeing the CSI television star as a more mature "Gil Grissom."

I watched this movie back in the '80s before I knew Petersen, Cox, Hopkins and the rest.....and it was better. Sorry to say, the other films have simply eclipsed this effort.
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10/10
Superior to Silence of the Lambs
DylansFearFiles24 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
I am a large fan of Hannibal Lecter. Tonight I finally saw this film. The novels are great, that I have read so far. "Red Dragon" is the best I've read so far.

I didn't expect much out of this. I love Anthony Hopkins's performance even though I DO like Brian Cox. He just isn't my favorite. I also didn't think this was gonna be that great because it strayed away from the novel but I was wrong.

Will Graham (William Petersen) is an retired FBI profiler. He has the great forensic gift...or curse...to think as a psychopath. Graham retired after arresting and almost losing his life to the infamous cannibalistic mass-murderer and brilliant psychiatrist, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Brian Cox). Graham is put back on the case by Jack Crawford (Dennis Farina) to capture a serial killer known as the Tooth Fairy, who kills entire families, the killer's real identity is no secret, he is Francis Dolarhyde (Tom Noonan).

Graham is scarred by the traumas he suffered in his career. He is putting himself and his family in danger. He calls on the incarcerated Hannibal Lecter for help. While Dolarhyde is falling in love with a blind co-worker named Reba McClane (Joan Allen) and searching for Will Graham, Will is also closing in on Dolarhyde.

I honestly enjoyed this film more than "Silence of the Lambs", which is also a great movie. In this, they gave Hannibal Lecter an everywhere-and-nowhere prescense by only showing him a handful of times and referring to him frequently during the film. Brian Cox equaled up to Anthony Hopkins, whose performance is the one I prefer but I find Brian Cox's Lecter to be more realistic.

The film is not a lot like the novel, as I mentioned before, but also does a great job at sticking to the main idea of Thomas Harris's masterpiece. I found the tortured Francis Dolarhyde as a more chilling character than the Jame Gumb/Buffalo Bill.

The acting is great. The songs they used in the film were perfect (Strong As I Am, used in the "betrayal" scene). I did not care much for the movies score though, but it was tolerable.

If you are a fan of the other Hannibal Lecter films, you'd better watch this. You will never regret it. I assure you that you will have a good time and will be surprised by this underrated classic.
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