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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 28.99%
Average: 14.49%
Pretty Bad: 5.8%
Total Crap: 2.9%

5 reviews, 39 user ratings

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by Jack Sommersby

"The Best of the Dr. Lecter Series"
4 stars

Not without its faults, this first entry in the Dr. Lecter series of films is far better-scripted and controlled.

In the excellent Manhunter, William Petersen stars as Will Graham, who's lured out of early retirement from the FBI to track down a serial killer of entire families in the Southeast, and he does so with the gift -- or curse, in light of the mental ramifications -- of extreme empathy, the ability to assimilate his quarry's sicko mind-set in the hope of predicting his next move. In essence, he must become the killer without becoming him. The film, based upon the dark and deeply disturbing novel Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, written for the screen and directed by Michael Mann, is slick and swift, and, most welcome of all, extremely respectful in not assaulting us with the overstated. Where most films would go the exploitation route in the uncouth effort to garner our attention from start to finish, Mann details the investigation to us very tactfully, very suggestively, very analytically. There are only three onscreen murders, with the last two occurring only during the last ten minutes; before that, it's the aftermath of the killings at the crime scenes that are detailed, where the hero ruminates aloud into a tape recorder the possible thoughts having gone through the killer's head. This approach might seem too distanced for most mainstream audiences, but the effect has an eerie fascination to it in that we're left to recreate the killings in our own minds, with the imagination making them seem ten times as horrifying. Manhunter affords us the opportunity of witnessing a genuine intellectual experience on the part of Graham, which is intensified when meshed with the psychological battle of wills between him and his old nemesis, a sociopath named Dr. Lecktor, whom Graham consults on the killings. As the hero, Petersen is intense but no more than adequate -- the performance is just too held-in and unvaried; as Lecktor, Brian Cox is brilliantly focused and helplessly mesmerizing. The only real disappointment in the cast is the mediocre Tom Noonan as the resourceful killer nicknamed "The Tooth Fairy"; he simply lacks the vivid intensity and emanative power that would give the audience chilled-to-the-bone shivers. Mann doesn't successfully convince us of doppelganger recognition between cop and criminal -- the linkage isn't quite lucid and developed enough (though Harris' novel didn't bring this off, either) -- and he's decidedly more stylish than need be -- the knockout color cinematography and rock songs call our attention to the film as such too often (though the score by The Reds and Michael Rubini is superb). But this is still an entertainment that manages to hold us with a steadfast grip and tells an enthralling tale with conviction and restraint, and the rewards are plentiful. Standout scene: In a supermarket, Graham reluctantly tells his young son of his mental breakdown after having captured Lecktor, ashamedly viewing himself as a freak; and when he's asked how Lecktor slayed his victims, Graham, wanting to shield his son from the ugly particulars, replies, "In bad ways." It's the most affecting moment in the picture.

The DVD from Anchor Bay sports a remarkable widescreen presentation, with special features pretty decent: a conversation with cinematographer Dante Spinotti, and a series of interviews with the cast that details some interesting tidbits.

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originally posted: 06/05/06 05:29:09
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User Comments

10/16/15 David Hollingsworth Tense, underrated and a pure shocker 5 stars
11/08/14 Allan Blonde A masterful statement of the diametrics, understaement and overstatement. Great within its 4 stars
2/08/13 Jeff Wilder Best Lecter film. Peterson and Cox are fantastic as is Mann's direction. 5 stars
2/09/12 David Hollingsworth underrated, scary, and well-made 5 stars
8/11/11 Jack F. Understated, refined excellence. 5 stars
10/03/10 brian More intense than SOTL, although ultimately Red Dragon works a little better. Good movie. 4 stars
1/25/10 Chad Dillon Cooper Great crime drama,except for Miami vice feel to it. 5 stars
6/10/07 al smith amazing movie like all manns films incredibly atmospheric 5 stars
12/03/06 David Pollastrini pretty dull 2 stars
7/19/06 Michael With all respect, it is better than SOTL. Fav scary movie. Great acting. 5 stars
7/01/06 Gerry Irons saw it on tv- not what you expect-very good-hitchcok fans check it out 3 stars
6/25/06 Ole Man Bourbon Good, maybe better than Red Dragon, but nowhere in the league of SotL. 4 stars
3/11/06 Dillon Creepy and involving thriller with terrific acting 5 stars
8/23/05 Eden Very dated, shallow and cheesy. Just watch SOTL 2 stars
6/03/05 Ripley Easy top ten all-time 5 stars
5/10/05 Vince Actually better than Red Dragon, despite Hopkins and Norton in the latter. 4 stars
11/18/04 chris very blandly average and cox aint a patch on hopkins 2 stars
10/01/04 Cannabinoid fallopian tube shallowest, blandest movie ever 1 stars
7/29/04 American Slasher Goddess On the same level as Lambs, an excellent thriller 5 stars
4/14/04 Daveman The presense of Anthony Hopkins is sorely missed in this otherwise excellent thriller. 4 stars
2/02/04 LIAM JACKSON Manhunter is outstanding. Red Dragon is an absolute bag of shite. 5 stars
12/11/03 R.W. Welch Formulaic finale blunts the edge of otherwise intriguing crime thriller. 4 stars
5/12/03 Jon Lyrik Beautiful cinematography and sets, but cheesily executed and dated. 2 stars
12/29/02 Jack Sommersby The best Hannibal Lecter film. Underrated and extraordinary. 5 stars
11/08/02 Monster W. Kung Sorry, I meant to pick "Average". 3 stars
9/09/02 Monster W. Kung Well built-up, but the ending was pretty lame. 4 stars
2/21/02 Cat alright but This Movie Is not as good as Silence of the Lambs 3 stars
2/03/02 The Bomb 69 not as polished as Lambs but better overall 5 stars
10/01/01 Phoenix The best serial killer movie I've ever seen. William Petersen is excellent. 5 stars
9/29/01 annonomous An even better, smaller film than silence of the lambs. 5 stars
9/17/01 Mike D. Just as good or better than Silence of The Lambs 5 stars
4/28/01 The Jedi Droid The best of the three. Brian Cox rocks!!! Saw it opening night 5 stars
4/28/01 Ric P. The Be-All-End-All of Michael Mann films. William Petersen Rocks! 5 stars
3/30/01 Jake What a great psych thriller. Makes Se7en look like a ridiculous copycat. 5 stars
3/27/01 Jesse L One of the best....Should have stuck with this for Silence.. 5 stars
3/03/01 Joe Mamma This movie sucked,why cant you people see that?? how can you say that this movie is anythin 1 stars
2/23/01 Tyrone Some good scenes but most of the movie deviates from the plot 3 stars
2/22/01 Brian Wilkins Great flick! A must see before Hanibal 5 stars
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  15-Apr-1986 (R)


  02-Apr-1987 (M)

Directed by
  Michael Mann

Written by
  Michael Mann
  Thomas Harris

  William L Peterson
  Kim Griest
  Joan Allen
  Brian Cox
  Dennis Farina
  Stephen Lang

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