A former FBI agent is summoned from retirement to work on the case of a serial killer. He has the ability to enter the minds of killers, so that he can work out when where and how they will strike again.
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Maybe Petersen's stilted acting wasn't entirely his fault. In this early 1986 thriller, Michael Mann (known to emulate Bresson) might have been fine-tuning his intellectual but visceral filmmaking style. The obsessed hero would reappear in later Mann films—but he is here superseded by Brian Cox and Tom Noonan, both in better sync with Mann-Spinotti's moody, formalist images which also redeem some very bad 80s music.
Some obtrusive rock songs, but a mesmerizing, moody film. Mann's direction lingers on details, creating an atmosphere and giving all central character's dimension: Petersen subtly plays his character's inner turmoil to create a profound sense of anguish of past demons, while Noonan is a soft-spoken, lonely killer, and Cox is Hannibal sans Hopkins dark humor: more ice cold, less playful, but just as sinister.
The work of a technological fetishist seen 30 years later, and an earnest, basic prototype for a whole subgenre that would get massively played out over the next decade or two. But it retains a formal beauty and thrill beyond mere nostalgia. Happy realization: Mann is skilled not just with style, but subtext. Frightening realization: the psycho loner serial killer's apartment is more furnished than mine is.
Masterpiece. All about seeing, about its centrality to our intellectual and sensorial relationships to ourselves and the world. Mann almost resembles Straub at times here in his presentation of myth, his compositions, and in the way his actors pose, betray their emotionality through theatricalization, self-reflect, and endeavor to hit at something sacred. Compression vs. clarity. It's not perfect, but who cares?
Watched this once before and remember being unimpressed, but I completely missed the boat - this is an outstanding thriller. It's not better than Demme's SotL, but it is the next best Lecter film. Peterson as Graham is great. That is what separates this one from other Lecters - this is a film about Graham and his obsession, which is able to come through without the scene-stealing of Hopkins' Lecter. An 80s Mann gem.
William Petersen carries the film with a brave and ambivalent portrayal of a disturbed detective obsessed with the psychopath he must catch . Mann's atmospheric storytelling helps to feel the heat, anguish and horror in the minds of the duellists. The sinister Tom Noonan is the counterpart of the deadly game,
Well, some nice Michael Mann moments, but I think Red Dragon was a far better adaptation. This film has some weird Miami Vice similarities that didn't work with Hannibal Lecter for me. Oh, and Lecter in that film is the most useless and forgettable character.
A towering achievement for Mann and a template for his later works. "Manhunter" is so rich (stylistically and emotionally) in its rain-soaked, cathartic, violent journey of self-discovery -- and, credit where it's due to Mr. Hopkins -- Brian Cox is one hell of a Hannibal Lector.