Retired FBI profiler Will Graham agrees to help stop
a deranged serial killer before he strikes again.
Written and Directed by Michael Mann
Starring William Petersen, Kim Griest, Dennis Farina,
Tom Noonan, Joan Allen, Brian Cox, Stephen Lang
Based on the novel Red Dragon by Thomas Harris
A lot of people forget that The Silence of the Lambs wasn't the first time we saw Hannibal Lecter on the big screen. Manhunter was the first glimpse into Thomas Harris's macabre world of vicious, intelligent psychopaths, and it's fairly decent. However, it pales in comparison to what the franchise would later become with the help of Jonathan Demme, Jodie Foster, and of course Anthony Hopkins. Manhunter never quite captures the right tone of the novel, something that 2002's Red Dragon achieved quite effortlessly. Instead, Manhunter feels far too cheesy at times and, at times, is like a school play version of Red Dragon.
William Petersen is Will Graham, a retired FBI profiler who agrees to come back to take down the Tooth Fairy, a sadistic murderer who's killed two families and isn't finished yet. I think Petersen is the best Graham we've seen on camera. Edward Norton felt miscast in Red Dragon and Hugh Dancy was too fragile in the Hannibal show. With Petersen, I buy that he's seen some shit and barely escaped with his life. Brian Cox plays Dr. Lecter in a handful of brief scenes in which we get a far more cocky, insane Hannibal Lecter than the composed, likable Hopkins version. The standout is Tom Noonan as Francis Dolarhyde, the Red Dragon. While not as vicious or unhinged as Ralph Fiennes, Noonan brought his own brand of bizarre to the character that makes him a force to be reckoned with.
My biggest issues with the film were in its pace, which was slow, and its reliance on 80's synth music to establish the wrong sort of tone at various moments. Seriously, once that music kicked in, I started thinking I was watching Top Gun again. Most of the performances were decent, but I think this one doesn't hold a candle to the Hopkins trilogy. But then again, how could anything?