Monday, October 27, 2014

Manhunter (1986)

Director: Michael  Mann
Writers:  Thomas Harris (Novel), Michael Mann
Cast:       William Petersen, Kim Greist, Joan Allen, Brian Cox, Tom Noonan

Former FBI profiler Will Graham  (William Petersen) returns to service to pursue a deranged serial murderer named 'Tooth Fairy' by the media. Will Graham had earlier helped in catching Hannibal Lecktor (Brian Cox), who is now under maximum security, by putting himself in the shoes of the psychopath leaving him physically as well as mentally scarred. He returns back to service with some trepidation because of it since he thinks there is only a thin line between him and the psychopath that he is pursuing. 

This film has been on my watch list for some time and was getting postponed due to lack of subtitles. The accents and the mumbling are a bit hard to follow without subtitles to help, and I had to concentrate really hard and be in an investigative mode to figure out what was really happening. I have heard various people describing it as the best Hannibal film and Cox's Lecktor as the best portrayal of the character Hannibal. On the former point I don't necessarily agree even though I have watched only 'Silence of the Lambs' among all other Hannibal films and I don't think Manhunter is better than it. Brian Cox is great as Hannibal even though he is there for just two or three scenes. Some have criticized Anthony Hopkins' Hannibal as too hammy and Oscar baiting. I have to watch it again to comment on that. 

Manhunter is a very good watch but in some places it has not aged particularly well. This is true especially for the soundtrack used. William Petersen was there in Friedkin's 'To Live and Die in LA', a film that I love from the 80s with its characteristic soundtrack. It is that role that put Petersen ahead in the casting for his role in Manhunter. Friedkin was also considered for the serial killer role which ultimately went to Tom Noonan who is excellent in the film. He isolated himself from the other actors and the climax scene in which Petersen jumps through the glass to confront him was the first time they met during the filming. Michael Mann is known for the ultra realism he goes for in police procedural films of his and you get that in Manhunter as well.

If I were to rank Michael Mann's film the order would be:

1) The Insider
2) Heat
3) Collateral
4) The Last of the Mohicans
5) Manhunter

His debut film 'Thief' starring James Caan is also supposed to be good.

Rating: 3.5/5