Former FBI profiler Will Graham returns to service to pursue a deranged serial killer dubbed "the Tooth Fairy" by the media.Former FBI profiler Will Graham returns to service to pursue a deranged serial killer dubbed "the Tooth Fairy" by the media.Former FBI profiler Will Graham returns to service to pursue a deranged serial killer dubbed "the Tooth Fairy" by the media.
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 Obviously, the danger of using such modern music is that it can become outdated and cheesy very quick.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.
- Oct 14, 2002