This movie was bubbling back into the public domain due to the release of Red Dragon. I should say I have never read the books, so I can't say how it compares to any of the written word. I should also mention that I had seen Red Dragon before seeing this movie.
This movie was completed in 1986 and no one I know remembers it being released. So, at the time of this review, this movie is now 16 years old. It shows it's age. Screenplay and direction is courtesy of Michael Mann. This must have been concurrent with Miami Vice or shortly thereafter because it has many similarities. It even has Michael Talbott playing a similar role as Switek. Mann is obsessed with color scapes and lighting. There are many shots that are done in all white - Hannibal Lecktor's (that's the correct spelling according to this movie) cell, the prison psychologist, and the prison. Then, there are the Miami Vice styled colored tee-shirts. There other monochromatic scenes, but they don't seem to tie to anything the director is trying to say. Usually, a motiff or element like color enhances meaning. In Manhunter, it's just there on the screen.
CSI's William Petersen plays Will Graham and Dennis Farina plays his boss. Petersen and Farina are pretty good in this movie. However, Mann's style is visual and much of this story cannot be told visually - we don't really understand the past of Graham, nor do we really understand Lecktor. In my review of Red Dragon, I suggest that the movie need not be tethered to Hannibal and I think the same here.
In seeing this movie, I'm intrigued by the screen writing process. Many of the scenes in Red Dragon are exactly the same as this movie, which spoils the mood of this movie. There are very similar scenes with the tiger, carousel doors in the film developer, and the Tattler setup photographs to name only a few. I wonder if the source material leads to the same visual presentation or if Red Dragon draws generously from the book and this movie.
Fear was not drawn out in me while watching Manhunter. I really think that has to do with having seen Red Dragon beforehand. It also probably has to do with the distance that Mann keeps from the character of the Dragon. In a post-Se7en movie world, we are treated to all of the creepiness that is the villain and expect to have many insights into his makeup. We don't really get that here. Mann expects his crimes to speak for the villain's evil.
The movie is accented by Mann's heavy handed soundtrack. It's a mixture of horrible synth and 80's cult hero's Shriekback. It's hard to separate the music from the color washes. Thankfully, by the time Mann directs The Insider, his craft has matured. The music dates this movie, much like it does in Crimes of Passion. Future directors, take heed.
The movie ends differently (and yet the same) as Red Dragon. Our hero surrvives and the villain is dead.
In the end, it really seems to foreshadow CSI mixed with an epsiode of Miami Vice. If you are intrigued by Hannibal, see one or the other.
Interesting things to look for: Mr T Cereal & Chris Elliot (Late Night with David Letterman)
Full profile for Manhunter
Offsite info: Internet Movie Database
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